Peter's Blog

Just commenting on things that interest me

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Gordon Wilson: An Ordinary Man

On 8 November 1987 the Provisional IRA detonated a bomb during the Remembrance Day parade in Enniskillen.

Local man Gordon Wilson found himself buried in rubble after the blast. He was holding the hand of his twenty year old Daughter, Marie.

In the video below, you can see an interview which Gordon did with the BBC about these minutes. Even after all of these years, it is extraordinarily moving.

Marie died later in the hospital from her injuries. She was a young nurse with her whole life ahead of her.

Anyone could relate to the love between Gordon and his daughter and to the loss and immense sadness suffered by Gordon and his family.

What sets Gordon apart from other men is some of the other sentiments he expressed, not shown in this video:

But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She’s dead. She’s in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night.

Gordon went on to be a peace campaigner for the rest of his life. He wrote a book about his daughter entitled “Marie: Story from Enniskillen” in 1990. He was a member of Seanad Éireann from 1993 to 1995. He passed away in 1997.

When that day started in 1987 Gordon Wilson seemed like an ordinary man. He was a draper with a wife and three children, and just a few years older than I am now. The events of that day and the remainder of his life showed that nothing could be further from the truth.

In 1996 Alf McGreary (who wrote the book on Marie with Gordon) wrote a biography of Gorden entitled “Gordon Wilson: An Ordinary hero”. I think that is an excellent title.

I have never forgotten the things which Gordon said. I think that the things the he said and did were a turning point in The Troubles.

Eleven people died that day, including three married couples. A twelfth died after spending 13 years in a coma.

Some of us imagined that we would never see another atrocity like that again, especially after the way Gordon spoke and the public reaction to what he said. But on 15 August 1998 (after the Good Friday Agreement) a group calling themselves the Real Irish Republican Army set off a bomb in Omagh killing 29 people, including a pregnant woman. This was the worst single bombing of the Troubles, in terms of civilian lives lost. But it also one of the last, and the last to claim multiple victims.

Northern Ireland – Every Cloud…

On the 9th of January 2017 the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended. That means that there has been no local government in Northern Ireland for over 2 years. This is a disgraceful betrayal of the Good Friday Agreement.

In an attempt, I assume, to put pressure on those involved to restore the local government, an announcement was made in September of last year that the £49,500 salaries of Northern Ireland Assembly members was to be cut by almost £14,000, starting with a £7,425 reduction in November and a further £6,187 cut three months later.

But there was no movement.

The major low point of the strife caused by the political vacuum was when journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead on 18 April 2019 while observing rioting in the Creggan area of Derry. A completely senseless waste of a young life.

Lyra’s funeral was attended by politicians from North and South.

Catholic priest Father Martin Magill received a standing ovation at the funeral service when he said the following: “”Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get to this point?”

I guess the more naive among is thought that things might start to move at this point. But they did not.

So the latest thing to happen in the absence of local government in NI is that the UK Government has decided to bring NI into line with the rest of the UK in terms of laws relating to both abortion and same sex marriage. The deadline to get the assembly and executive up and running again is October 21st.

Experts like Susan McKay tell us that this won’t happen, so it looks as if the new laws will come into effect in the new year. So for me this is the “silver lining” in the shameful fact that the assembly has been out of action for 2.5 years.

Lyra had wanted to marry her partner, Sara Canning. Sara describes it as “bittersweet” that same sex marriage seems to be coming to NI but Lyra won’t be there to see it.

Here is a video of Lyra speaking very eloquently in 2017 about LGBT issues:

Good Friday Agreement – 20 Years On

The Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast on 10 April 1998. So it’s over 21 years old now.

But last year Pat Kenny had a series of radio programmes on to mark the twentieth anniversary.

I happened to be out in the car for some reason and heard one of them.

It was very good and very moving.

The part I remember most was the interview with Monica McWilliams.

In 1996, Monica co-founded the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition political party and was elected as a delegate at the Multi-Party Peace Negotiations.

She was present at the announcement of the Good Friday agreement and she describes that in a very vivid and moving manner.

The whole recording is available here and her part starts at about 13 mins into the recording.

This photo was taken when some of the main players in the Good Friday agreement assembled last year to mark the anniversary. Monica is on the left in the front row. My personal hero, John Hume, was unfortunately too ill to attend.

(back row left to right) Jonathan Powell, Lord John Alderdice, Lord David Trimble, Sir Reg Empey, Lord Paul Murphy of Torfaen and (front row left to right) Professor Monica McWilliams, Seamus Mallon, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Senator George Mitchell and Gerry Adams, at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, at Queen’s University in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story ULSTER GoodFriday. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

One Small Step for a Man

On this day 50 years ago, man set foot on the moon.

It still seems incredible to me that in 1969 it was possible for three men to take off from the earth, navigate to the moon, land on the moon, take off again, and return to earth successfully!

If we had not done that 50 years ago, and we were setting out to do it today, I would still be impressed!

But I guess the thing that astonishes me most, given all of my years in computing, was the “Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC)”. This computer had 36k words of ROM and 2k words of RAM, weighed about 70 pounds(about 31kg ), was accessed using a calculator-style keyboard and display (called a “DSKY”), and “flew most of Project Apollo except briefly during lunar landings”!

That is amazing to me. The astronauts gave it instructions using a 2 digit verb and a 2 digit noun!

Apparently the power of the computer was comparable to an Apple II (which I had about 8 years later).

And apparently the “software development on the project comprised 1400 person-years of effort, with a peak workforce of 350 people”. At its peak, the Apollo program employed 400,000 people apparently!

In 2009, a DSKY (just the interface, not the whole computer) was sold in a public auction for $50,788 (about €45k)

It’s no wonder some people believe that the Apollo moon landing was faked. It’s an amazing achievement.

I was 7 when the mission took place. I remember looking at the fuzzy pictures on a TV. I’d like to say it was in black-and-white but we were on holidays at the time and I think the TV we were looking at had some kind of green filter!

Here is a link to the Wikipedia page for the AGC:

And here is the photo from the Apollo 11 mission with which I am most familiar (it was in the volume of encyclopedias we had at home when I was growing up!)

Blogging Resumes

I am now sure why it has been so long since I added anything here, but that is about to change.

More than a year!

Let the blogging resume!


Belfast Rape Trial

The Belfast rape trial concluded nine days ago with verdicts for not guilty for Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison.

Immediately after the verdict, Jackson said the following to reporters waiting outside the court:

“I just like to thank the judge and the jury for giving me a fair trial, my parents for being here every day as well as my brother and sisters. I’d like to thank my barrister Brendan Kelly QC, my solicitors Joe McVeigh and Kevin Winters of RKW Law. Out of respect for my employers I’m have nothing further to comment.”

His lawyer said the following:

On behalf of Patrick Jackson we are grateful to the jury for reaching a common sense verdict of not guilty to all counts.

Paddy has been consistent in his denials and his account. Consistency had never been a feature of the complainant’s evidence long before she entered the witness box.

So these acquittals should come as no surprise. Paddy leaves court for the last time today, as he entered it almost 10 weeks ago, an innocent man. The prosecution made much of a perceived privilege position provided by virtue of Paddy being an International rugby player.

We say that it was his status as a famous sportsman that drove the decision to prosecute in the first place. Much has been said in the course of this trial by way of criticism of the police investigation.

We have little to add to what has already been said but it is our belief that this investigation has been characterised by a blind eye being turn to the inadequacies in the evidence of the complainant combined with apparent investigative bias.

Paddy and his parents have paid a heavy price personally, professionally and financially. This price was paid despite the fact he is and has never been anything other than entirely innocent.

On the face of it, this robust assertion of its independence by the jury embodied in these acquittals may suggest that the trial process is in good health. That is not the case.

Vile commentary expressed on social media, going well beyond fair comment, have polluted the sphere of public discourse and raise real concerns about the integrity of the trial process.

To that end we want to thank the learned trial judge for her management of this trial in the face of an onslaught of toxic content particularly on Twitter. Several days of this trial were lost due to problems thrown up by the intrusive infection of the process by social media.

All the lawyers have been distracted by having to man the barriers against a flood of misinformed, misconceived and malicious content on the internet particularly during the vital last phase of this trial and, worryingly , even at the hands of public servants who should know better. There is no reason to believe that this problem will not worsen.

To that end, we invite the office of the Lord Chief Justice, the Attorney General and the Public Prosecution Service to enter in to fresh discussions with us to look at more robust mechanisms that can strike an effective balance between everyone’s rights but that properly secure the integrity of our criminal justice system.

As for Paddy, his main priority right now is to return to his work and that means getting back on to the Rugby pitch representing his Province and his Country.

Start Olding said the following immediately after the trial:

I want to start by thanking the judge and jury for their time and patience throughout this long trial.

I am very relieved that the jury has accepted my explanation as to what occurred.

I want to acknowledge publicly, that though I committed no criminal offence on the evening of the 28th of June, 2016, I regret deeply the events of that evening.

I want to acknowledge that the complainant came to court and gave evidence about her perception of those events. I am sorry for the hurt that was caused to the complainant. It was was never my intention to hurt anyone on that night.

I don’t agree with her perception of events, and I maintain that everything that happened that evening was consensual.

I have consistently told the truth to the police and the court when asked to account for my conduct.

The Stuart Olding who has been portrayed in the past nine weeks in this trial is not the real Stuart Olding. I am fiercely proud to represent my province and my country. I have worked very hard to achieve those goals.

I hope to be able to prove myself going forward in all aspects of my life.

Two things happened today (6th April):

  • A full page crowdfunded ad appeared in the Belfast Telegraph calling on the Ulster and Ireland rugby teams to never allow the two men to play for them again
  • Paddy Jackson released the following statement:

I am ashamed that a young woman who was a visitor to my home left in a distressed state. This was never my intention and I will always regret the events of that evening.

I am also truly sorry for engaging in a WhatsApp group chat which was degrading and offensive and I apologise unreservedly for this.

The criticism of my behaviour is fully justified and I know I have betrayed the values of my family and those of the wider public.

Following the trial I have taken time to reflect with my family on the values that were such an integral part of my upbringing, the most important of which is respect. My departure from these values has caused understandable public anger and I am resolutely committed to returning to those principles.

This is the first time that Jackson has expressed any regret for the indicent.

My observation on all of the above is as follows: I don’t know if Jackson’s statement was prompted by the ad, but I give much more credit to Olding for his immediate statement, given personally, than I do to Jackson for his  belated press release.

There were no winners in this sequence of events, but IMO Jackson has come out worst of all.

Star Trek Continues – but not for much longer

Episode 10 of “Star Trek Continues” is available on the website.

It is the penultimate episode. The last one will be released in a few days – on the 13th of November.

It is very good.

I saw an interview with Vic Mignogna where he said that he thought the fans would be happy with the way the show ends (although fans like me will not be happy that the show has to end so soon!) The second last episode has the highest score on IMDB so far : 9.5 (the previous highest was 9.0).

There is a moment in the show which is astonishing though. So astonishing that I had to pause the video to check what I was seeing.

I mentioned in a recent post how a young Sean Young appeared in BR2049. But that was not astonishing as they had some much money available to achieve the effect.

What astonished me was that the Romulan Commander looked uncannily like the actress from the original series (in the episode “The Enterprise Incident”).

A little bit of research (thanks IMDB) told me that the new actress is Amy Rydell. The previous actress was Joanne Linville. The latter is the real life mother of the former.

What a stroke of genius! I am so impressed!

Here are photos of the two ladies side by side: Joanne is on the left, Amy on the right.

I am very much looking forward to the last episode.

Blade Runner – Is Deckard a Replicant

At some point during the making of Blade Runner, Ridley Scott decided that it would be brilliant if Harrison Ford’s character were a replicant.

Some kind of irony, I suppose, that Deckard was retiring replicants but was a replicant himself without even knowing it.

So he added the unicorn scene in the Director’s Cut so that we could all be let in on the joke.

And then Hampton Fancher, Michael Green, Denis Villeneuve, Harrison Ford and Scott himself became involved in making a sequel. So they had to face this question. Obviously Ford was going to look a lot older in the sequel. So what would that mean?

So the decision they made was to leave the question just as open as it was at the end of the first movie.

But for me (as for Harrison Ford) Deckard was always human. And the unicorn scene was a mistake.

The reason I think Deckard was human was because he was clearly no match for the replicants in combat. He was lucky to survive each encounter with a replicant. He only survived the final encounter with Batty because the latter allowed him to. And he felt pain, as the fight with Batty so clearly illustrated.

And the reason I thought that Deckard  should have been human was that he represents us. In his encounters with Rachel. In his encounters with Batty. The movie only makes sense if he is a human experiencing those emotions. Feeling empathy for Batty. Falling in love with Rachel. And Batty chooses to let him live. Not because Deckard is another replicant. But because Deckard is human. When he says “I’ve seen this you people wouldn’t believe” he is referring to “you humans”, in my opinion.

So Ford is right, and Scott is wrong.

And Fancher and Villeneuve (presumably out of respect for Scott) decided not to set the record straight.

Here is the great “Tears in Rain” scene from the original movie.

Blade Runner 2049

So as I mentioned in my last post, I went to see Blade Runner 2049 on the opening night. This posting contains SPOILERS.

It is hard, of course, for a sequel to live up to a classic (the 1982 movie has a score of 8.2 on IMDB and 90% on Rotten Tomatoes). I know (from interviews on YouTube) that Denis Villeneuve was very conscious of this. But he had Hampton Fancher on to write the story, and Ridley Scott on board as Exec Producer, and Harrison Ford on to reprise his role, so he went for it.

The movie has a score of 8.5 on IMDB and 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. So they did a lot that was right.

The thing I liked most about the new movie was (of course) the way it looked. They did an amazing job.

I also liked the way they way they extended the questions from the original about what it is to be “real” and what it is to be alive (or “human” as most people seem to say).

The things I liked least were:

  • The fact that we knew that K was a replicant before we ever entered the cinema (from things we saw him doing in the trailer)
  • The overly long scene with K, Joi and the prostitute
  • The role of Niander Wallace in the movie (and the fact that there was no resolution for this at the end of the movie)

The thing which surprised me most was when the young Sean Young made an appearance! I’ll need to watch that again because I was so busy trying to figure out how they did it (and noticing what looked like bad CGI) that I wasn’t paying proper attention to what went on.

One thing I would suggest which would have made the movie better, IMHO, would be to have asked Vangelis to do the soundtrack. They brought everyone else back, why not him! It was particularly obvious to me when they brought some of his music in towards the end.

So overall (like the majority of fans I think) I was very happy with the sequel. It is a good movie and picks up lots of threads from the original.

Blade Runner 2049 – Nearly Here!

There has been lots of publicity recently for the upcoming Blade Runner sequel.

Warner Bros have released a series of trailers, TV spots, shorts and featurettes. And the director and cast are appearing everywhere, notably:

  • At Comic-Con
  • On all of the talk shows, including the Graham Norton show last week (Ford and Gosling)

Reviews seem to be generally positive. The Guardian calls it “a gigantic spectacle of pure hallucinatory craziness“. Rotten Tomatoes seems to have 47 reviews and is currently scoring the movie at 96%.

The movies opens this Thursday and I have bought my tickets for my local cinema. Interestingly:

  • The move will start at 20:49 in the evening
  • The cost for two tickets (a “Deckard Double”) was €20.49.


Can’t wait!

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