Mícheál Carchrie Campbell


>Last Friday my dear friends and fellow Northern Ireland Liberal Democrat Members Michael and Andrew got were civil partnered. Today there is a rather special occaion. There have been husband and wife teams in the House of Commons before but I don’t think any of them have got married while both were members, for example only Yvette Cooper was an MP when she and Ed Balls got married in 1998. (I’m prepared to be proven wrong). So congratulations to Jo Swinson and Duncan Hames.

However, it seems fitting that at Michael and Andrew’s Ceremony of Commitment last Saturday at All Souls’ Church in Belfast last Saturday that I was wearing Highland Dress as was one of the grooms, and some of the other guests that I keep my promise last Friday of the pictures to follow.

Here is me on the left in my Donegal tartan, with Kyle and Rory two of the Marshals, Kyle is wearing Red Ulster.

And here is one of last weekend’s happy couple with family, yes that is the Campbell tartan on Michael.

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>I did last night blog that I was back and free to blog. Well I’m not quite free quite yet, I’m currently at a count for the referendum somewhere.

However, my good friend Michael said yes yesterday, did so earlier on today at Belfast City Hall and will be doing so tomorrow at All Souls’ Church. Yeah after voting yesterday, earlier today he and Andrew went through their civil partnership ceremony, but tomorrow at the their Ceremony of Commitment before God only then will they consider themselves fully married*.

 Hopefully by now I have my Argyll Jacket to go with my Highland outfit (it still wasn’t ready on Tuesday), seeing as this is the only item remaining and I’m not an off the peg jacket I do hope so. But last weekend I got thinking of processionals for weddings as a result of an unusual version played at someone else’s. So here today are some other’s maybe not played in the way or style you typically associate them with.

As tomorrow I will be wearing my newly purchased Highland outfit (pictures will follow) here is that famous modern Bagpipe processional by German pipers Ulrich Roever and Michael Korb Highland Cathedral played not on pipes but by a brass band.

The one that kicked off this thought process was Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D played on three Bagpipes as at Trinity, Bangor last Saturday. Here is a different take of that

Of course Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March is another traditional bridal processional. It has been rocked up by many groups, but who better seeing as there was a Royal Wedding last week than Queen’s version from Flash Gordon

* Actually they won’t until the Liberal Democrat’s policy on Equal Marriage is fully implemented, which includes the section that civil partnerships like theirs can be updated to full marriage if they wish.

>

Those of you who know me ought to be aware that I love a big, fast rollercoasters. I really need to go back to the States and experience some of the new rides since last I was there (1996). However, this year has certainly been one hell of a rollercoaster ride with its highs and lows and switchbacks and unexpected turns.

This time last year I was sitting in Bathgate, looking forward to kick starting the local Lib Dems into the General Election year, then onwards to the Scottish Elections and the council elections beyond. The same old routine as laid out by the election cycles. Or so I thought.

Sure enough the year started out in just that manner. On St. Patrick’s Night I was selected as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) again for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, with Charles Dundas once again my colleague in the other seat for the local party, Livingston. In the end I came third once more, was agent to Kieran Leach in neighbouring Falkirk (in which campaign I met some new friends). But I was very disappointed on the night that Kevin Lang in Edinburgh North and Leith and Fred MacIntosh in Edinburgh South had done exactly what the party thought was required to win only to no get elected as MPs.

Well eight days after the General Election I had my CV in to start the selection process for the Edinburgh Central seat  for the Scottish elections next May. So there wasn’t any real rest between the elections cycles as I started to plot and plan just what I would have to do, first for the seat and then for the list. In the end after another solid 2/3 months of planning and canvassing local members it wasn’t to be, but Alex Cole Hamilton had been selected.

So as I started to work for Alex and was settling down to work on the list selection process, which overlapped with the end of Edinburgh Central, I was brought to a sudden halt. Somehow in all the activity of the previous months I had managed to not notice that certain bills were not being paid, kind of major expensive ones. I tried to get finance from the bank but that wasn’t happening. I then felt that the only way to deal with this was to return to Northern Ireland and proposed to work that I could continue to work for them from here. With time running out and me having a letter of notice to hand over if there was no decision on that day I was finally given the go ahead to be a home-worker.

So with that then came the task of packing up 9 years accumulated stuff and with the help of Michael completed Operation Evacuate at the end of August. I’d a week to settle in before I started work, but I was also looking for something a little more permanent over here because work, as close friends can attest, was getting me depressed in a major way, even before I moved over.

There then came an email from a friend saying “Have you seen this job?”, I applied and found myself up against Michael for what were probably the most angst ridden two weeks in either of our lives. Until I finally was told the position was mine within an hour of a Nationwide conference call for Yes to Fairer Votes as the Northern Ireland Organiser. I just had time to talk to Michael before that call, and he has been a great help and support from that time on.

Since I’ve got back I hadn’t been completely politically inactive, along with Michael we as local Liberal Democrats wrote a couple of responses to consultations from government departments. I’ve also been involved in the LGBT consultative forum, help establish Delga within the local party, been back across for Scottish conference. As well as attending two party conferences and meeting with others as part of the Yes to Fairer Votes drive.

This year I attended three Pride Parades Edinburgh, Glasgow and Foyle. Somehow I found the time and a person to fall in love with, though sadly that didn’t go as I’d hoped. I’ve also been elected unto my new local party’s executive committee as well as keeping up my record of being a conference rep, Sheffield and Birmingham here I come.

So what does 2011 hold?

For a start there is an referendum on May 5th, not the campaigning I expected to be taking up every waking and quite a few of the sleeping moments of my life. But there you are I’m working towards that and looking forward to getting back into the phonebank as people carry on talking to people across Northern Ireland about fairer votes.

After May, who knows. I have no idea what comes next.

Last year I felt that I’d love to find someone I could really connect with that didn’t abhor the time I spent with politics and maybe settle down. Seeing as how intermittent my love life has been in the last twelve months it is almost like I am saving myself for that person. Maybe I might get lucky this year and find what I’m looking for in that department. My love life has been a bit of a roller coaster in recent years maybe I just want it to be a gentle punt down life’s river from here on. But then knowing the passion I put into things maybe not.

After May I’ll be looking for a new job. No idea that that will actually be yet, have an idea what I’d like it to be just need to see if there are openings that I can fill, it may mean a move once more, it may mean staying right here, I just don’t know and nobody is able to tell me the answer to that right now. So it looks like 2011 might be another roller coaster year as well.

Stay tuned I’ll return to blogging full time in May.

>Yeah it will come as shock to some people in Northern Ireland, but yes there are people living with HIV here in Northern Ireland.

You can’t tell who they are by looking at them.

You are not at risk from every day contact with them.

The HIV Support Centre in Belfast says that every week there are two people newly diagnosed with HIV. That is two more people who will be living with HIV in their bodies, two more sets of family and friends that will be living with someone they know very well having HIV.

Of course it is up to the individual in question as to whether s/he lets their family or friends know their status. There is still a stigma attached to HIV, which is almost as much of the ignorance from the 80s instead of what is known now about the disease. In fact it is possible to be in a full relationship with someone living with HIV and practice safer sex and to remain negative yourself*.

That stigma is something that is hard to overcome. It only will be broken down if more people living with HIV are courageous enough to let others know. Showing others that they can live a perfectly normal live.

My friend Michael is a trustee of The HIV Support Centre and he is adamant that the stigma of HIV is best lifted when people are aware that people living with HIV are all around them. Until recently this was even an issue with The HIV Support Centre itself, referring to itself merely as ‘The Centre’; the centre of what, one might ask. I recently witnessed him helping lift that stigma one person at a time.

He was talking to a friend he had known for some time, the conversation got round to HIV and his work as a trustee. Standing there listening I had an inkling where that conversation was going, especially once the friend seemed shocked that there people living with HIV in Northern Ireland, the friend was not someone you’d expect to be ignorant of such facts. Michael, eventually asked the question, “Do you know anyone living with HIV?”. The friend replied “No”. A hand was proffered with the words, “Hello, I’m Michael, I’m living with HIV.” It was a brave step even to a friend of some standing, and I’m glad to report he shook that hand and carried on asking more questions, over to the side I was fighting back the tear ducts**.

There is also the stigma of attending a GUM clinic. Some people think that everyone in there is carrying some STI if not HIV. But not every car that you see in a garage needs work doing, some are just being serviced and getting looked over ahead of an MOT, getting tested regularly is just like that. Far better to know what your status is, negative or otherwise at regular intervals that to find out too late that there is something wrong. Late diagnoses means that sometimes the medications may not be effective for the treatment of HIV.

Scarily 1 in 4 people living with HIV are as yet undiagnosed. Scarily of that set 39% are diagnosed so late that they need to start HIV treatment immediately, and 30% were diagnosed so late that there was a real risk of developing a potentially fatal illness. When there are apparently to 1 in 20 of the UK wide gay male population that are living with HIV that can lead to nightmares. Therefore the rule of thumb is treat every encounter the same, be safe and respect your own body. If someone refuses you because you want safer sex, don’t give in to peer pressure.

The message this year is ACT AWARE.

Are you aware of your HIV status?

If you’re not but are sleeping around whether with people of the same sex or the opposite, may I advise you to go and get tested now and regularly and be aware.

If you don’t believe how important that can be I’ll advise to wait until my next blog post.

* Of course there is no such thing as 100% safe sex, but if you love someone you decide for yourself what you want to do providing you are in full knowledge of the facts.

** Yeah I tend to well up quite a lot.

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Following on from my post yesterday and Michael’s post and his letter, which led to this response have now included Northern Ireland in its survey.

In an email to my friend Michael Tris Reid-Smith said:

“There’s a further update. Having looked into it further, we have now been able to include Northern Ireland as an option in the Readers’ Awards! Obviously anything you can do to get the word out to people and to get them to take part would be great!

I’ve filled mine in (if only the party internal elections were so quick to complete) and any offers of free underwear will be greatly welcomed.
 
* What you think that is a little bit of an unsubtle way to try and get free boxers?

>Early today I posted about whether I was the “only gay in the Province“. Of course I know I’m not and indeed attending the LGBT Consultative Forum meetings here in Belfast shows just the diversity with the LGBT community that exists here all doing their best for that section of Northern Irish life.

Of course one member of that community, who I know rather well, also took up the cause up on his blog. But Michael being Michael did more that just blog and sent an email off to Tris Reid-Smith, Editor-In-Chief, GT (Gay Times) and Pink Paper and got a response by phone within a few hours, followed up by a response which Michael has posted, in which Tris writes

“Therefore I’m grateful to you for highlighting this anomaly [of our omitting Northern Ireland] and I’ll use your blog as an opportunity to consider how we can improve our coverage and our awards. Meanwhile, I and my news team will be very keen to hear from our readers in all parts of Ireland with their news and comments.”

Not a bad days work from all three of us who were involved, even if I have had another busy day. But special praise to Tris for acting so swiftly and positively. If only some of the other media would respond so positively to omission, overlooking or misrepresenting certain sections without their readership.

>Considering that both Michael and I were taking a ‘break’ from blogging over the weekend (somehow we still managed the odd one here and there). Today was almost as if we were unleashed back unto the world with a vengeance or possibly it was displacement theory while we’re both waiting to find out who may have got a certain job. I’d also managed to wake up three hours before my alarm clock.

Anyway speaking of the job Michael and myself both managed a post about the Alternative Vote, hmm, I wonder why? On the subject of AV Michael also had an issue with Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes’ email to members yesterday evening, I know I heard his disgust as he read it. I on the other hand looked at what Nick said, or rather didn’t say about the emails that had gone to him about tuition fees. I’d also blogged about prisoners being given back the right to vote. While Michael blogged about getting another Golden Dozen, so I guess I need to up my game again or else he might just overhaul me.

Northern Ireland formed the remainder of the blog posts, firstly the bomb alert in North Belfast affecting the community where Michael lives, some waylaid campaign literature of mine. However, the most pertinent question after the discovery of the body of another of the ‘disappeared’ what effort to find the perpetrator or this and other disappearances?

Last night I did blog that I was off to “rescue a friendship, hopefully” well a peace treaty was signed in the Pizza Hut at Victoria Square. However, I was truly concerned at one point on Sunday. Although we have also just had another pleasant evening after an LGBT Consultation Forum meeting.

PS By the way this is also a post from Michael as indeed is this.

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