Thursday, 25 December 2014





DEAR ALJAZEERA STAFF.....



Dear Peter, Mohammed and Baher,

Today is Christmas Day 2014. I'm at home with my lovely husband Don and my two gorgeous, cuddly cats. There is a Christmas tree twinkling in the corner. There are gifts underneath. We are eating chocolate, drinking tea and watching AlJazeera. And we are thinking of you all. 

We know you will be in jail in Egypt this Christmas. And it makes us very, very sad.

The way you have been treated by the Egyptian justice system is so unfair. You were doing your job, nothing more and nothing less than that. You were obeying the basic principle of journalism, telling the truth. And for doing that you were sent to prison and denied the chance to be with your families. 

We never believed that any of you deserved to be jailed. We all know the crimes you were accused of were non-existent and as for the trial....don't even get me started.

When you were handed your sentences I couldn't understand what you were being jailed for and, to be honest,  I still can't.  

I want you to know that we have not been silent. Your families, friends, colleagues, journalists and non-journalists alike, have been shouting and fighting for your release. And we will keep doing it! We will tweet #FREEAJSTAFF and #JournalismIsNotACrime until our fingers bleed. We will continue our protests. My husband and I will continue to wear our #FREEAJSTAFF shirts in public to let the world know we stand by you, wish for your release and that we have not forgotten you. You are in our thoughts everyday, but especially now.

I hope you are released soon and as I try to pursue my own career in journalism  I will shout even louder on your behalf. 

Please keep your spirits up and stay brave. Whenever you feel scared or frustrated at the injustice we believe you have been served, remember that there are people all over the world speaking for you.

In the future you will be back to doing what you do best: speaking the truth via your journalism.

Until then, I will do what I do best: speak up for those - like yourselves - who have virtually no voice via my blogging and tweeting and shouting.

On 29th December 2014, on the anniversary of your arrest, we will be stood outside the Egyptian Embassy in London doing what we have been doing for the last year: Calling for justice and for your release.

We hope by this time next year you will be free again. Until then, chin up and keep smiling! 

Love and good wishes to you all! 

Terry and Don X




Wednesday, 24 December 2014




EXTREMISM IS.....EXTREME



A while back I wrote a blog on the importance of  Education after Malala Yusafzai was shot and over 200 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. 

I assumed that I would have no more to say on the subject. How wrong a girl can be.

In the last fortnight another 100 girls have been taken by Boko Haram and the group has said they will not be releasing the ones they already have. 

And as if that weren't enough, we also have the Taliban. I saw a documentary the other day called Girls of the Taliban about the rise of the Madrassa - the so-called religious schools in Afghanistan that are allegedly funded by the Taliban. What I saw was incredibly disturbing. These teachers were not teaching the Koran (Quran) - I know I've read it - only their extremist take on it.

They say women are not allowed to go out in public without a male relative, or without wearing a hijab (full veil) and are not allowed to do all the things western teenagers take for granted like listening to music, going to parties, playing video games, watching TV etc. Some of the parents were so disturbed by the changes that took places in their children when they went to a Madrassa that they sent them back to mainstream school. For instance, one girl blames the West for her appalling behaviour and said the Madrassa  helped her realise how she should behave and how to be a good Muslim woman. 

Boko Haram and the Taliban - two sides of the same coin. Both saying that Education is wrong and all Muslim women should just serve their husbands. Despite the fact that the Koran says otherwise.

And then there was last week's brutal and unjust attack by the Taliban on a school in Peshawar in Pakistan. In this case they were not actually targeting education itself, targeting the school was their 'revenge' for the military strikes that had been aimed at them. But it doesn't change the fact that they did storm a school and kill its students. What they did was not 'revenge' but cold-blooded murder. Their grievance was against the military not against education. They had absolutely no reason to go near this school and slaughter over 140 innocent people, 132 of them children.  

This extremist hatred of Education is ridiculous and it needs more people like Malala to stand up and say, "This is wrong". In the documentary I watched, a lot of people wanted to talk about their experiences of sending their children to the Madrassa and then why they pulled them out again. Unfortunately, they were too afraid to speak up. Which is very sad. The more people speak up, the less control and power these extremists will have.

Hopefully one day, the messages of people like Malala will get through and children all over the Middle East will be able to have an education that is varied, fun, and important. Learning music, art, science, languages, alongside learning the Koran. I hope that one day they have the education they deserve, not the one being forced on them by extremist ideology.

Everyone in the world has the right to a proper education. Let's pray that one day they will get it. 













Wednesday, 3 December 2014





THE DRENCHED DAWLISH DEBATE.




I have always loved Dawlish.

For those who have no idea where I'm talking about, it's in South West England about 12 miles from the lovely city of Exeter in Devon. 

For years people have been debating the future of the railway line between Exeter and Newton Abbot which runs literally along the edge of the beach. The only thing protecting it it is a sea wall that is no damn use whatsoever in a storm. As you can see here:



Now I can understand why people are complaining. The cost of repairing the hole in the railway line after the storm in February 2014 cost 15 million pounds, which is an awful lot of money to pay on something that will get damaged again next winter.

There has been a proposal to move the line inland for Intercity traffic and leave the beachside line just for local commuter services. However, I have a feeling that once the re-routed mainline is in place, Network Rail will shut the coastal line for good, citing that now they have the mainline it would no longer be commercially or economically viable to keep it going.

It is true that the Dawlish section of the South Devon route in particular is in desperate need of an upgrade. The station itself could use a new lick of paint, if nothing else.

However, this is not just about the viability of the line - not for me anyway. I have been staying in Devon for my holidays on and off for most of my life. As a child I lived in Exeter at my Grandma's house two weeks of the year, every year and spent my days on the beach in Dawlish. I have great memories. Even on a stormy day, Dawlish was a playground as I rode along on a train with the window open and made a game out of trying not to get soaked!

And then there is the scenery. Could you ever find a better view from a train in the UK? Not to my knowledge - it's just beautiful.

To close this line would keep this beautiful view hidden from everyone, which would be incredibly sad. 

Also this is one of  Isambard Kingdom Brunel's greatest achievements; having to blast through the sandstone rather than trying to go over the Holden Hills. It's a fantastic piece of engineering. To close it would dishonour not only Brunel's memory, but the memory of all those who sadly died in it's construction.  

I'm all for a re-route inland, it makes perfect sense, but at the expense of God's Wonderful Railway? NO.

If the Dawlish Warren  - Teignmouth section of this line is closed for good, my memories will be washed away with the line, and I couldn't stand that.

Look for ways to solve this problem, sure, but leave Brunel's engineering masterpiece alone, please. 


Sunny Day In Dawlish


  









Wednesday, 29 October 2014



THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL



Which are the historical events that stand out your memory? For me there are many. But there is one I will never forget.

On Sunday 9 November 2014 it will be exactly 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was part of the 907 mile long 'Iron Curtain" and was erected in 1961 to stop the mass emigration from the Communist countries in the Eastern Bloc. A lot of people found themselves on the wrong side of the barrier.

Over the years there were an estimated 10,000 people who tried escaping across the curtain and 5,000 of them paid for it with their lives. There were checkpoints, guards, minefields, machine guns, and the wall itself was reinforced concrete. The Communists were making sure that no-one got across the curtain; well not alive anyway.  

No-one believed the Berlin Wall would ever come down. But it did!

The metaphorical crack had already begun when Hungary decided to open its border with Austria a year earlier. It was at this point that the Iron Curtain no longer served the purpose for which it was originally built.

On the night no-one can forget, Gunter Schabowski - the unofficial spokesman for East Germany - said new rules applied about travelling to the West. He was asked when these rules applied. His answer was, "Immediately!".  The government tried to back-peddle on what he said, but it was too late. Thousands of people, from East and West seized on his remark and descended on the wall. The guards had no idea what to do. They could only stand by and watch in disbelief. Because they had no orders to shoot people they couldn't really do much. Some people went through the wall for a visit. Some, however, took the chance to leave for good in case the government changed their minds.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember people standing on the wall shouting about freedom, I remember people taking bits of the wall as souvenirs. I wish I could have seen it up close, but even on TV it was amazing. The political landscape of Europe was about to change forever. I remember watching people drive across the border with their families; their cars filled with all their belongings intent on never returning to the East.

It was the end of the wall, the curtain, and of the Eastern Bloc and one of the most important historical events ever. It was twenty-five years ago but I will never forget the images of that night and what it would mean - not just for the future of Germany, but for the whole of Europe.

Of course there are many other 'walls' around the world that are a lot harder to break down. Such as the peace walls of Northern Ireland.

The Berlin Wall hasn't disappeared altogether. There are parts of it on display all over the world reminding people of what the wall stood for: the cruel reality of division.

My hope is that one day all the walls of division throughout the world will go the same way as the Berlin Wall. For now, though - as we watch the progress of a democratic and unified Germany - lets remember that night and hope that nothing like the wall is ever built again.




















Tuesday, 14 October 2014




VOLUNTEERING  FOR CRY



I used to be very anti-charity. Not because I wasn't a caring person, far from it. Sometimes I am more compassionate than is possibly good for me. But like a lot of people I got fed up with different organisations sliding leaflets and letters through my letter box. Or worse "chuggers" stopping me in the street asking for my credit card details! The main thing was that I had no reason to support these causes. The only people I had ever given money to were Children of the Night (only twice) and the Salvation Army because of my religious up-bringing. But that's it.

That was about to change when in April of 2013 I was introduced to a charity that finally made sense to me. My friend Bill was running in the London Marathon for a charity called Cardiac Risk in the Young, more affectionately know as CRY. I decided I would go and cheer him on. I decided to find out about CRY and discovered that their aims made sense to me. Mainly because I had a heart murmur when I was about ten, and maybe still have. And a few years ago I saw a teenager collapse and die from a heart condition outside the cinema where I was working.

This decided me. I registered to Volunteer at the marathon in 2013, while cheering on my friend, whom I later found out was one of CRY's many patrons. I also did a sponsored silence for them.

I have been volunteering for them ever since. People often say, "Which charity do I support? There are so many!". My advice is: pick ONE charity that resonates with you, for whatever reason, and stick to it. Don't worry about the rest. No matter how much money you have; no matter how big a heart you have, you can't help everyone.

I've chosen mine and working for them is absolutely amazing and I love doing it. By volunteering, I have helped and supported others, made wonderful friends, raised money and more importantly, raised awareness.

By volunteering I hope I can help CRY to lower the statistic that twelve young people a week under the age of thirty-five die from an un-diagnosed heart condition.

Working for CRY  is very rewarding and I am incredibly pleased and proud to be volunteering on their behalf.






If you wish to learn about CRY and their aims, please visit: http://www.c-r-y.org.uk/



Wednesday, 24 September 2014



SCOTLAND UNITED



For centuries the United Kingdom has always comprised of four wonderful countries: England, Scotland, Wales and (sorry to sound biased) Northern Ireland. However this was possibly about to change forever.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) had been talking of independence from the UK. They finally almost got their wish when on the 18th September, in one of the most historic events to happen in the UK for a long time,  the Scottish people voted on whether they would gain their independence.

The spokesperson for independence was SNP leader Alex Salmond. Unfortunately a lot of people believed his reasons were flawed. One of them being that they could rely on oil revenue for funding, which would be fine except oil runs out eventually.

On the flip side we had the people in the "NO" camp, or the "Better Together" campaign. Their spokesman being Alistair Darling, with support from prominent politicians like Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown gave a great speech on keeping the UK together (see link below). It was sincere, it was  passionate, and it was brilliant.


On the day in question, the people went out to vote like never before. The turnout was 
84.59% which is bigger than in any previous election. And the result couldn't have been closer.  Results were:

No    = 55%     2,001, 926
Yes   = 45%    1,617, 989

The "NO" vote may have been partly due to David Cameron's promise to give more power to the Scottish parliament. Let's hope he does because if the Scottish ever decide to do this again, they will not be fooled a second time.

And this event has had an effect on places other than Scotland as they saw Scotland choose their destiny, it gave them the courage to fight for theirs. Places like Catalonia in Spain, and the rest of the UK, including Jersey, were all looking to Scotland and saying, "If they can do it, why can't we?".

And that is a very fair question.

And where does Scotland go from here? Nobody knows for sure, but let's hope it works out well for them. I wish them good luck.

One thing is for sure. The UK will NEVER be the same again.








SAFETY IN JOURNALISM




The recent deaths of American journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff has led to questions about the safety of journalists in war zones. This question has actually been asked before but their deaths brought into full focus the horror of what happens when things go wrong for journalists in such situations. 

Foreign correspondents are in extreme danger no matter how many precautions they take or how safe someone tells them it is.

Is it becoming too dangerous for journalists to be in war zones? Absolutely.  But the news needs to be reported and journalists have to be there to do it.  It's unrealistic for them not be. 

Syria has now been designated as the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist. Over 120 journalists including Marie Colvin have died there. I should point out that most of these were actually local. 

But should we forget the situation in Syria just because it's so dangerous? No of course we shouldn't. If we did that it would be inhumane.  

For correspondents to pretend they know the situation in a dangerous place if they are not there or in a worse case, never have been, is not only deceitful, it is insulting the intelligence of the audience or reader. 

Someone asked, "Is this the end of frontline journalism?" No it isn't and we can't allow it to be. I know this is easy for me to say while sat here typing this. I am not the one out there in danger. But I honestly believe we cannot let the danger of terrorism frighten journalists from doing what they do best. Going to Syria (or any other conflict zone) and telling us what is happening there.


And now another journalist has appeared in an ISIS video. This is not the first time John Cantlie had been kidnapped in Syria. He was released and returned home. But then, like all good and brave journalists, he went back there. He is now sadly a hostage for a second time.

It must be terrifying for any foreign correspondent to witness. Firstly, the fact that you are seeing a fellow journalist in trouble, and secondly, the thought of , "Am I next?"

That must be frightening for any reporter to have in his head.,

However, I believe the best way to stand up to these terrorist groups is to do exactly what they don't want. Go out there, and tell the truth to the world.

So my advice to journalists is do it and don't let anyone stop you. We need you and we need to know.





Thursday, 28 August 2014






HELLO!! HELLO!! I RECOGNISE YOU......!!


"Our job as journalists is to speak truth to power, shine a light in the dark places, be a witness to history, and...stand up for those who have no voice" ~ Bill Neely

If you ask ten people who their favourite journalist of all time is, you can be sure of getting ten different answers. Some may say Kate Adie - no argument from me there - and someone else may say Marie Colvin. My husband liked Jill Dando. And my Twitter friends are fans of Ayman Mohyeldin and Richard Engel. We all have at least one journalist whom we admire and I am no exception.

I first heard Bill Neely presenting the ITV news one lunchtime in 1993. Yes, I heard him. And then I saw him. I can't remember the exact date I heard/saw him, but I do remember the half-hour that ensured my admiration for him stayed with me for the rest of my life. My Twitter name 'Neely Fan Forever' is not an exaggeration.

From being a presenter, and finally becoming the International Editor of ITV News to becoming the Chief Global Correspondent of NBC, Bill has been incredible. He has brought us news from all over the world. Some of it light-hearted: US Mega-millions and various sporting events. Some of it sad: the death of various politicians, world leaders etc. Some of it anger-inducing: Why did the security people refuse to let him in to the press conference in Sri Lanka? And some of it downright heartbreaking: his reports from war zones, earthquake zones, and other disasters. Yes, through his reports, Bill has made me laugh, cry and everything in between. And to me that is one of the talents of a great journalist.

He has won countless awards and justifiably so; too many to mention, but the fact that he helped ITV News win three (yes, you read that right. THREE!!) BAFTAs in a row is brilliant!

One thing that makes me admire him as a journalist is his compassion. Some people believe that journalism and compassion do not mix and that it can possibly be a hindrance (see my previous blog: "If You Have Tears...."). For Bill this doesn't seem to have been the case. He manages to encompass professionalism with compassion incredibly well.

Not only does he have empathy for the people in his stories, but he is conscientious about the safety of his crew too. Which is exactly the way it should be. He has said that he is driven, as are many journalists, and that he wants to beat the competition, but he will never endanger his crew to do it, which is to his absolute credit. If getting the story means putting the crew in danger then there will be no story on that day. As he says, "I am very, very careful about every yard. I will not send a cameraman where I will not go. What would I say to the widow of the cameraman to whom I'd said, 'Just take a peek around that corner'? I couldn't do it, I couldn't justify that to me or to her".

Bill also introduced me to the charity he is patron of: Cardiac Risk in the Young, affectionately known as CRY. I am very proud to support this charity and to help him support them too. Though I think running a marathon is a long way off for me yet.

On a personal note, I finally got to meet Bill and spend time with him. He is one of the kindness, most generous and humble people you could meet. He has inspired me in so many ways and I feel privileged and honoured to call him a friend. Hopefully we'll be friends for a long time to come; as I support him, he inspires me and we both support CRY.

Vin Ray once said, "He is - quite simply - one of the greatest storytellers of his generation".  He was right.

Here is Bill's interview from the day I first met him:

BILL AT THE 2013 VIRGIN LONDON MARATHON

I will be a Neely Fan forever. however long that may be. I leave you with the proverb that Bill once quoted and that I have always remembered:














        












Thursday, 14 August 2014





"IF YOU HAVE TEARS, PREPARE TO SHED THEM NOW" - UNLESS YOU'RE A JOURNALIST??




A recent debate erupted about the role of emotion in journalism after Channel 4's Jon Snow made an emotional plea on a news bulletin for the people of Gaza (I will talk about Gaza another time. That's a whole other blog) To me this was an incredibly brave thing to do, but others disagreed. They saw his emotional appeal as propaganda. and said it wasn't exactly helping the situation. 

This however is not my point. My question is: Can journalism and emotion live in tandem with each other?

Some would say no A journalist has to be unbiased and professional and keep his emotions in check. But they forget two things. Firstly: being unbiased doesn't make you unfeeling, and if you show your emotion and compassion it doesn't mean you are using it as propaganda for anyone in particular.

And secondly how dare these people criticise those out in the field while they are stuck in an office/studio etc with no clear idea of what is going on. Seeing a report is one thing. Being in the situation as the on-scene reporter is something else entirely. The reporters out there, especially in war torn places, like Gaza, Syria, Libya and Iraq and in places where there have being disasters, such as earthquake zones, see some tragic and appalling scenes and hear some heartbreaking stories from victims and people who are there to help. And the journalists are supposed to not care?

To think like that is just ridiculous. Journalists are people, not robots. They are human beings like everyone else with the same emotions. As long as they can keep their composure on camera - something Kate Adie was a master of - then that to me is enough. If, when they are actually in the field finding their story, they are moved by the situation around them then it shouldn't be a problem.

I would rather see an emotional report from someone who obviously cares and is speaking from their heart about things that are happening than a reporter who cares only about the story and not about the people involved.

Do I think what Jon Snow did was wrong? Absolutely not. He was just showing that journalists have compassion; something he should not be ashamed of. Reporters are compassionate, brave people. They risk their lives to bring us news. We would do well to remember that, and not to be so harsh in our judgement of an emotional journalist.

Compassion in journalism is not a crime.








Saturday, 12 July 2014





ONLY THE GERMANS SAW IT COMING





And to be honest I'm not even sure they did! Let me explain.

It was a Tuesday evening. Everyone was sat in front of the TV waiting for the football to begin. In Brazil, the stands of Belo Horizonte stadium were a sea of yellow jerseys as everyone came out to support their home nation in what they hoped would be a thrilling match against Germany. 

Except it wasn't. Well not in the way it was supposed to be anyway.

The German football team were literally on fire and the Brazilians never knew what the hell hit them.

Within twenty minutes, Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose, Toni Kroos, and Sami Khedira had steamrollered over Brazil to the humiliating tune of 5-0.

It was very painful to watch. The team that have won 5 previous world cups and are, to some, the epitome of what football is all about, were being systematically slaughtered by a German team who refused to give an inch. It was absolutely horrible. 

And it only got worse. Could it get any worse? Oh, yes.....!  

In the second half, Andre Schurrle scored two more goals to complete Brazil's worst defeat in years! 

Brazil's Emboaba Oscar  did give us a quick "Hello! Hello!" moment, as I'm fond of calling it, by getting a consolation goal, so well done to him. 

But the damage had been done. Brazil had been booed off at half-time and a lot of fans didn't even stick around to watch the end of the game.

We were wondering whether any of the players would leave Belo Horizonte stadium alive. We can only wonder what Luiz Felipe Scolari was thinking as he watched his team completely fall to pieces.

Most of us could only stare at the TV and wonder what the hell had happened!

On Saturday they played in a 3rd place match against Holland and it did not feel too good. Fans hoped to see them do better, if only to regain some shard of dignity out of this embarrassing scenario. But it didn't happen. They lost that game 3-0

As for Germany, well they are heading for the final on Sunday, at the expense of Brazil's humiliation. Will they hand out the same to Argentina. We can only wait and see.

One thing we do know. These defeats hurt like hell and it will hurt for a long time to come.



  •  

Friday, 4 July 2014




JOURNALISM IS NOT A CRIME



On 23 June 2014 the world of Journalism was torn apart after three Al Jazeera English journalists were jailed in Egypt. Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy were given seven years each and Baher Mohamed was given ten years (well, seven with three extra for possessing a bullet).

Yes, this nonsense trial in a kangaroo court finally came to its conclusion - the wrong way!

There was no credible evidence; the evidence they had was either nonsense (a pop video? Gimme a break!) or not relevant to the case. 

There was absolutely no reason for these men to have been given their respective sentences. For a start the so-called "bullet" was actually only an empty casing that Baher had picked up during a protest. He wasn't the first journalist to take a souvenir and probably won't be the last. To prosecute him for this is just ludicrous.

Egypt has effectively and unjustifiably made journalists and journalism it's enemy. They have received condemnation from all over the world.

As a freelance journalist, I feel this verdict has not only shown contempt for journalism but will encourage other  countries to think they have carte blanche to treat journalists in any way they see fit whether it be legal or not; whether it be humane or not and whether it is justified or not.  This ruling has effectively put journalists in even greater danger than they were before.

The journalists' families and respective countries are using diplomatic means to get the three journalists released. Meanwhile, everyone else - journalists and non-journalists alike - are continuing to scream, shout and tweet #FREEAJSTAFF and #JournalismIsNotaCrime until their fingers bleed.

And it must keep going. We must let these three brave men see that they have not been forgotten. We also need to show Egypt that we will not tolerate them treating any journalists like this.

Hopefully, but unlikely, the Egyptian authorities will come to their senses and release the staff of Al Jazeera.

Until then; we shall still scream #FREEAJSTAFF.


If you wish to send a message to Peter Greste please visit:  freepetergreste@gmail.com

If you wish to send a donation, please visit:

If you wish to send a message to Mohamed Fahmy please go here: 










Thursday, 12 June 2014





"KISS ME! I'M IRISH!"


I'm Irish. Well, partly anyway. My paternal great-grandfather was from Cork in the Republic of Ireland.  And my maternal step-grandad was from Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Now as soon as I tell non-Irish people I have an Irish background, they will react in one of three ways. They will ask why I have no accent (I do - it's called Yorkshire!). They will ask if I am a Catholic or a Protestant (neither. I was raised through the Salvation army, but no longer practise).Or they will ask you about the troubles. They assume (incorrectly) that you know everything about it (I don't, but I'm learning) or that you even want to discuss it (most Irish would rather draw a line under the whole thing). Even though the troubles are essentially over, people have asked about them, as if I can give them a detailed history of the troubles. I've learned to live with it. And the first thing I get asked when I mention my name is, "Oh, are you Catholic?". No. I can see why they would make this mistake, but it's not the case. That's why I prefer to be called Terry. It means I don't have to explain all the time. 

So how proud am I to be Irish? As proud as it is possible to be. Do I celebrate St Patrick's day? Of course I do! Being Irish is awesome and I wouldn't change it for the world. And I wish everyone on the island of Ireland could be as proud as I am to be just plain old 'Irish'. 

Sadly that hasn't happened. From 1969 for nearly thirty years, Northern Ireland was scarred by division and violent conflict. Everyone had to be one side or the other. They were either Loyalist (Unionist) or Republican, and they were either Catholic or protestant. To think of themselves as just one people who lived happily together, but just had a different point of view from one another seemed unthinkable. but then, no-one thought the Berlin Wall would fall down either. Yet in 1989, that's exactly, amazingly, what happened. And on 10 April 1998 the Good Friday agreement was signed.

And here - in 2014 - are the people of Northern Ireland. All one people - just Irish -  living happily together (for the most part) who just happen to have differences of opinion and different beliefs. Brilliant! Long may it remain that way. There is still a lot of distrust, of course. In fact there are more walls up in Northern Ireland now, than there ever were during the Troubles. But everything is peaceful. People are no longer trying to destroy each other and that's a great start. Trust, however, takes time, but it will happen. The trust will build up and the walls will fall down. We are all one people - Irish - who just happen to have different beliefs. Nothing more or less than that. We are just plain old Irish. And I for one am proud to be so!

I leave you with this message I wrote on the peace wall.










WHERE IS MH370?



There have been many mysteries in regard to missing planes. For instance The Bermuda Triangle is notorious for missing planes and ships and Glenn Miller was on a plane in the English Channel that went missing in 1944. 

My favourite story is of pilot Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan who were attempting a circumnavigation of the globe. They disappeared on route to Howland Island in the Pacific. No trace of them was ever found. The question is: where did they go? As with all mysteries like this, conspiracy theories abound. Some people say they were shot down, some say they ran out of fuel and crashed, and some say they were captured by aliens. 

Sci-fi writers have used missing planes as a plot device for years. From Taylor and Braga writing about Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan being found on an alien planet in the Star Trek Voyager episode 'The 37's' to Peter Grimwade writing about a Concorde going missing in the Dr Who story 'Timeflight'. 

Which brings us to the mysterious case of MH370. This Malaysian Airlines plane left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. An hour into the flight, it vanished. There was an extensive search, but no trace of it has so far been found. So.....where is it? Where did it go? In this century of amazing technology, how can one plane just vanish into thin air?

The families of the passengers and crew want answers and have been given none. They have no idea where their loved ones are and no-one can tell them. 

Of course, there are the conspiracy theorists talking nonsense again, but the families don't need to hear that stuff, especially the rubbish about them being kidnapped by aliens. To me, all that does is dishonour the missing victims and it certainly doesn't help the heartbreak being suffered by those who love them. 

The question still remains: where is MH370 and where are the passengers and crew? We may never, ever know. But until this mystery is solved, that's all it will remain: A mystery.

I hope one day we do find out, if only to bring comfort to the relatives.










Monday, 2 June 2014




A CAPTAIN GOES DOWN WITH HIS SHIP
..........OR DOES HE?



There is a tradition in maritime history saying: "A Captain Goes Down With His Ship". I also found out in research that it's actually the law.

If things start to go wrong, a Captain is supposed to put the safety of everyone on board above his own. He should be the last person he is thinking about.

Or that's the way it's supposed to work. This is such a simple law and yet it seems that a lot of Captains in the last few years are either forgetting it exists or just not caring.

We start with the delightfully named Costa Concordia. This cruise liner capsized off the coast of Isola del Giglio in Italy. The Captain neglected his duties and 32 passengers were lost. 

Then we have the MV Sewol which sank off the Island of Jindo in South Korea. Again the Captain was negligent and there was a loss of nearly 300 lives. The most tragic thing was many of these were high school children who had their whole lives ahead of them.

The Captains of both these ships abandoned their passengers and crew, but why? Cowardice? Stupidity? Or callous disregard for anyone, but themselves? We may never know. Whatever happened, they broke the law and will possibly pay the price for it. 

The Captain of the Costa Concordia was charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship. The Captain of the Sewol was charged with homicide through gross negligence. And to add insult to injury, he tried to pass himself off as a passenger.

The sadness of all this is that the deaths didn't stop with the drowned passengers and crew. In the case of the Costa Concordia, one of the salvage crew also died. And in regard to the MV Sewol, there is the emotional and heartbreaking story of the teacher who believed he was at fault and committed suicide because he couldn't cope with his guilt. There is also the parent who threatened to do the same if her daughter was found, because she allegedly pushed her daughter into going on the trip in the first place. And one of the civilian divers also died.

These two Captains broke the law and let people die. They should never have been placed in charge of a ship - ANY SHIP - in the first place and they should not be allowed to serve on a ship EVER AGAIN. They are a disgrace to maritime tradition, maritime history and worst of all a disgrace to their respective countries. 

I must point out that there were other contributing factors to these tragedies. That is not in dispute, especially with the Sewol where the ship was overloaded and the ferry company were also believed to be at fault.

However, once on board a ship, the buck stops with the Captain. 

A CAPTAIN GOES DOWN WITH HIS SHIP. And that's the way it should be.


"There are three things to remember about being a Captain: Keep your shirt tucked in; go down with the ship; and NEVER abandon a member of your crew". ~ Kate Mulgrew   


Flowers for the Victims of the Sewol Disaster (with kind permission from NBC's Bill Neely)




Tuesday, 27 May 2014

THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION

                                           
                                                                                                                                                             THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION


I have an admission to make before we start. I absolutely hated school (despite that I didn't bunk off once which I think is quite impressive). My educational experience was awful. I was bullied, I had useless unsupportive teachers and worse, unsupportive parents. So yeah, my school years were the worst of my life.

You'd have thought that would have put me off education forever. but it hasn't. It has only made me realise how important education is. And a few years ago I took a course in music at the University of Sheffield. I made some wonderful friends, had an inspiring lecturer, and my experience couldn't have been more different. It was wonderful. So, thanks Adam White (BMus), if you read this!

So do I believe in a good education? Of course I do. Wholeheartedly.

What I can't understand is why some fundamentalists in the Middle East do not.

They seem to have this bigoted  - not to mention sexist - view that the only thing women are good for are keeping home, doing chores and having kids (or as my mum so subtly puts it: "Being head cook and bottle-washer").

Now I'm not saying men in the West do not have these attitudes. They do. But when innocent women start dying for this principle then it becomes totally unacceptable.

First there is the appalling case of  Malala Yousafzai. She was brutally and cruelly shot by the Taliban simply because she wanted to go to school with her friends and learn like any other teenager. Thankfully, she recovered from this horrific incident and has continued to speak up for woman going to school. Though it is unlikely she will ever be able to return to her home country of Pakistan.

Then there is the recent frightening incident of over two hundred Nigerian girls who were abducted from a school in the village of Chibok by a terrorist group called Boko Haram.

The literal meaning of Boko Haram is 'Fake Education is a sin'. Boko being an abbreviation of  'Llimin Boko', meaning Fake Education.

Boko Haram - as their name suggests - believe that the Western-style education of woman (of any age) is unacceptable.

Sadly most these girls are still missing, The Nigerian military has said they know their whereabouts, but refuse to make it public. This could be for several reasons: They have no idea where they are and are blatantly lying, or they DO know, and are terrified of retaliation from Boko Haram, either towards them or the girls. In fact President Goodluck Jonathan refuses to make any move to help the girls whatsoever. He thought the best way of helping them was to take a trip to France.

My question here is: why should these girls not have an education? Do they not have the right to learn and be valuable and productive members of the society they live in, like their male counterparts? Yes, of course they do, and they should.

So, how do we change this horrible sexist attitude? It will take a lot of time and a lot of persistence. But there is hope.

As long as women like Malala stand up and say "We have rights", then eventually things will be different.

I have realised (a little late in life perhaps) that I love journalism and dream of pursuing a career in it.

These women deserve to have the chance to chase their dreams too, whatever they may be. I wish them all the very best of luck.






Saturday, 24 May 2014

THE FIGHT FOR FOUR MEN

                                         


                                                    THE FIGHT FOR FOUR MEN


Let me ask you a question. What does FREEDOM mean to you? Some may say it's being able to go for a ride, or a walk. Some may describe it as being alone with their own thoughts, shutting the rest of the world out. However you interpret freedom is fine. For myself it's being able to have my own opinions and to be able to share those opinions even if others may disagree with them.

For four good men, the only freedom they needed was to tell the truth to - and about - the world, via their journalism.

Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed were arrested in Egypt in December 2013. Their colleague - Abullah Al Shami - was already in jail having been arrested in August of the same year. 

They were charged with spreading false news, bringing Egypt into disrepute (yes, really!), and having ties with (and providing a platform for) the Muslim Brotherhood, who Egypt class as terrorists. 

Al Jazeera's stand is "we reject all charges and continue to campaign for their immediate release". 

it is the consensus they are innocent of all charges. So the reason they are in jail is somewhat of a mystery. Not only to their colleagues and journalism as a whole, but to people who have friends who are journalists (myself included) and anyone who believes in the importance of journalism, free speech, and a sense of justice.

Justice sounds (and is) a strong word. But in this case it's definition is simple because it translates to something simple but just as powerful  - #FREEAJSTAFF

This hashtag has been appearing on Al Jazeera and Twitter every hour of every day since these men were jailed. There was also a global day of action for the men who were wrongfully arrested just for doing their job. The taped mouth and hashtag picture has become a symbol all over the world of freedom of speech and journalistic freedom specifically. A way to show the Egyptians we will not be intimidated and certainly not silenced.

By jailing these men, Egypt has effectively shot itself in the foot, because it only served to prove how important journalistic freedom is and how much it is valued. After 100+ days* (Al-Shami 236+*) in jail people are still fighting for their freedom. 

It's because these journalists and many others like them do not belong behind bars. They should be outdoors doing what they do best. Using their talents to tell the truth about the world around them.

Where this situation goes or how gets resolved is open to question. But Abdullah Al-Shami is in a precarious situation. And it would be be desperately sad if he had to die to prove how important journalistic freedom is. One thing is certain though.

The men of Al Jazeera deserve their freedom.  Until they are released, the support will continue and calls for their release will never be silenced.  All anyone asks of the Egyptians is that they #FREEAJSTAFF

For the four talented men of Al Jazeera "JUSTICE" is as simple as that!.

(*These numbers were correct at the time this was originally written).




NB On 17 June 2014 Abdullah El-Shami was finally released from jail on medical grounds.