Archive for the ‘Northern Ireland’ Category

Culture Night: a very lively night out in Belfast

Friday was Culture Night in Belfast which means a very, very packed night of entertainment all over the city and all free too.

We took the opportunity to finish off some things that we didn’t manage to fit in to the Heritage Weekend earlier in the month. The easy way to include them turned out to be to go on one of the three Community Taster Tours. The listing for these was a little confusing in the booklet about the culture night but it turned out that there were three entirely different tours to choose from, each lasting three hours.

For our purposes the 4pm tour seemed best in that it included the Titanic pump house which we’d missed out on earlier and which normally has a very confusing car parking arrangement that seems best avoided. Surprisingly the tours weren’t anything like fully booked and we found ourselves on an open top bus that didn’t even have a dozen people on it.

Frankly the pump house was a major disappointment. Effectively it’s a small, very overpriced, cafe with one stand containing an assortment of Titanic gifts and a dozen or so panels about various aspects of the Titanic spaced around a very bare room. Next stop was the Engine Room Gallery which is nowhere near the Titanic area as you might expect but instead at Hollywood Arches.

From there we were off to what was supposed to be an Ulster Scots event at the Spectrum Centre on the Shankill Road. Unfortunately the organisation fell apart at that point so we only saw the Lambeg drummer and didn’t see the highland dancing, the flute band nor the lone piper.

Finally, it was on to the Indian Community Centre where they were rather optimistic about the amount that could be included in the short time available. Thus we missed out on the henna and sari demonstration, Hindi class information, Indian dance and musical performance and we just about managed to fit in the Indian tea, food and snacks.

Although three hours seemed like an awfully long time for a bus tour round Belfast when we read about it in the brochure, in practice the time just flew in and really it needed to be around twice as long to do justice to everything but then that’s only to be expected of a taster tour. In fact, it was almost perfect as a taster and has highlighted a couple of places that we will be revisiting at the next opportunity.

By the time we got back, it was almost the perfect time to go on the tour round the offices of the Belfast Telegraph. No smell of fire and brimstone as you sort-of expect from seeing newspaper back-offices in movies but rather a very automated newspaper production factory. Sadly we didn’t get to see the presses running as they don’t kick off ’til a couple of hours after the tours finish but a very interesting tour nonetheless and the hour just flew in.

Both the little guys were running on empty by this point so we finished off with a brief look round some of the activities going on before heading home.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Off to Mount Stewart

All being well, I’ll be off to Mount Stewart with the school tomorrow though I’ll not know for sure about it ’til later today.

The problem is that two of the normal class helpers are stranded thanks to the grounding of the planes but then they’re opening up the airways again later today, or at least in some areas they are. Thus, I don’t know if they’ll be back today. It’ll really mess up James if I’m not there though as he’s really set on having either me or Wendy along with him.

One other downside is that the forecast isn’t looking too good for Wednesday at the moment and Mount Stewart doesn’t seem like a great place to be if it’s raining.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Sort-of winter is a hassle, isn’t it?

Over the last week or so we’ve woken to a white landscape but, so far, the white is only frost with perhaps a very light dusting of snow.

That frosty covering makes for rather slippy pavements of course yet you don’t seem to really get the pleasure that proper snowfall can bring. No snowmen to built, no snowball fights. Just slipping and scraping the windows on the car.

And, yesterday, an unannounced closure of the school for the day. Instead of a final lie-in before school started we’d everyone up early to make sure we weren’t late with the slippery roads and found ourselves in front of a closed school. Oh, sure, if it had been way out in the country we’d have expected that but there wasn’t any big problem in getting to it so it was just closed for no apparent reason.

Still, with the weather forecasts continuing in winter mode for the remainder of the week perhaps we’ll get a proper snowfall one of these days.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Are there any Northern Irish people out there?

One of the oddities of Northern Ireland is that the almost total lack of cross-over between the Scottish descent population and the Irish descent population imeans that complete lack of comprehension in some areas can still exist even now.

For instance, something like seven or eight years ago a colleague in work happened to mention that he was sure I was wondering why he was wearing a poppy. Frankly I’d never even given it a second thought as it was a commonplace thing in that it was in the period just coming up to the November 11th Remembrance Day when, of course, wearing poppies is fairly common. In fact it wasn’t until some time later that I found out that the poppy was considered by Republicans as a British symbol and therefore political thus something that he “shouldn’t” be wearing since he was a Catholic. I’m sure that I’m not the only one from the Scottish descent community who simply couldn’t understand this reasoning at all.

However, just a few days ago Wendy received this as a final statement on a comment on her blog “And for the record, Northern Irish people are not British.”. Well, actually as far as those of us of Scottish descent goes I don’t think anyone even considered that there was such a thing as “Northern Irish” and actually we ARE British (as indeed, at least legally, are those born in Northern Ireland who consider themselves Irish). It seems peculiar that someone living in Belfast could possibly think that nobody in Northern Ireland was British these days, but there you go.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

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Getting into the United Kingdom legally without visas and residence permits

No, not as an asylum seeker!

We’re following European Directive 2004/38/EC which is the directive which gives European citizens and their family members and dependants the right move to any other European country. In general terms to take advantage of this directive you need to be moving your family from one country to another. For example, if you are only British and are living in the UK then you can’t use this directive to get any residence rights for a non-European wife. However, in the special case of those who count as “people of Northern Ireland” it’s possible for a British citizen to exercise these rights by requiring the UK authorities to consider them to be Irish (see the British-Irish agreement).

Who counts as a “family member or dependant”? Basically it’s:

  • the European citizen plus their spouse (or registered partner or partner in a durable [2 years or more] relationship) and
  • the direct descendants of either one up to 21 (or older if they are dependant on the parent) and
  • the dependant direct relatives in the ascending line of either (ie parents, grandparents, etc.) and
  • any other dependant relatives or members of the household of the European citizen.

Which essentially translates as anyone who lives in the house of the European citizen in the country from which they are moving, regardless of their nationality (which paraphrases Articles 2 & 3 of the directive).Most people think they must have a visa to move to another country but if you are one of the people covered by the above paragraph then in fact you don’t courtesy of Article 5, paragraph 4 which lets you prove “by other means” that you are covered by this directive. For example, in our own case Wendy has an expired European Residence Permit in her passport thus proving that the directive applies to her so she doesn’t need a visa and neither does she need to go down the “Non-European citizen” queues at immigration control even though she’s Australian.

Now you might think that you’re sure to need a residence permit but even that’s not the case because  Article 25, paragraph 1 also has the option to “prove by other means” entitlement to the rights granted under this directive and specifically forbids possession of a residence permit to be used as a precondition for the exercise of any rights or completion of any administrative formality. Which means that, in practice, you never need to have the residence permit.

But, what rights does this directive actually give? Well, in practical terms it translates as giving anyone covered by the directive almost all the rights that a national of the country would have with limitations only in areas such as national security (eg you probably couldn’t work as a diplomat) and voting (although the European citizen can vote in local and European elections). Thus the authorities are required to treat Wendy as though she were British and had always been British.

That’s the theory, but how does it work out in practice. Well, Wendy doesn’t get any UK stamps in her passport these days and avoids the massive queues at some airports which simplifies our lives no end as we can all go through the “EU Citizen” immigration queues. She already has her National Insurance number from when we were here before but temporary ones are allocated once you start work in the UK if you don’t have one already. One current complication remains in connection with the doctor (and I suspect the dentist) which is that although the doctor’s office don’t have any problem in treating her, the Central Services Agency (CSA) are still asking for copies of her visa and residence permit which, of course, we can’t provide as we have neither and we just found out this morning that because of that they’ve told the doctor to take her off his list. That’s not really a big problem as worst case scenario from the doctor’s office end is that we fill in a temporary resident form every time we go to the doctor. It does have a potentially major upside in that as the CSA are breaking the law we could get quite a sizeable compensation payment…

So, overall, an easy, legal and free way to live & work in the UK.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.