A Belfast Christmas Carol Video

I know what your thinking. A video shot in Belfast featuring child actors, how bad can it be? It is actually pretty good and well worth a watch. Well done to Colin Williams and CFC.

GLL Belfast Leisure Centre Takeover

So Belfast City Council’s “outsourcing” (I love the Orwellian newspeak of this phrase) of its leisure facilities has been in the pipeline for quite a while, but the official hand over of our leisure centres to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (a ..err… “charitable social enterprise for all the community”) happens on 1st January. BBC today is more…

On Welfare and the Budget, reality for Stormont is acceptable

Only the rashest observer would claim that s/he has a complete understanding of the complexities of welfare payments and reform and the  other details of the negotiations that are said to be reaching a climax. My feeling is that they are less about negotiations and more about accepting realities they can live with. On welfare more…

Why would you bother investing in Northern Ireland?

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Retired Irish Civil Servant Niall MacSuibhne (formerly the Irish Revenue dept) writes about what attracts multinationals to a region Ernst & Young publishes an annual review of Foreign Direct Investment in Europe and has done so for some years. These “attractiveness reports” as they are quaintly called give a continent wide picture of trends within the FDI more…

Public sector pay: behind the headlines

The Belfast Telegraph has been looking at Civil Service pay again. Behind the headline of a 3% increase in average Civil Service pay between 2013 and 2014 lie a few more facts. The first one is that almost uniquely in the public sector, the Northern Ireland Civil Service treats the annual increment paid to all more…

Outsourcing solutions may be the secret of dealing with more than the past

Well, perhaps amid the encircling gloom the political parties have seen some light at last. The details of the agreement on welfare reform are awaited but it looks as if any new money will come from Westminster mainly to deal with the past which is surely fair. Adds: United Executive request for a total of £2.1 billion over 10 more…

Stormont Talks: A Step in the Right Direction?

The Executive Parties have agreed a deal on welfare reform and have sent a paper to the NIO outlining an agreement. Earlier Martin McGuinness tweeted that there had been “a step change” in the atmosphere at the talks. Progress at the talks had seemed unlikely and there were suggestions that they could have drawn to more…

£421.82 For The Arts or is it 13p?

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13p per person per week for the arts. £6.76 per person per year for the arts. £421.82 per person per lifetime (18-80.4) for the arts On the face of it, 13p For The Arts is a worthy and well run campaign, and of course those within the industry should campaign against cuts being imposed, I more…

Beware the modern-day moral crusaders

The moral high ground is a slippery place Last Sunday’s episode of geo-political thriller Homeland was a particularly interesting and timely examination of moral relativism. Taliban commander Haizan Haqqani stages a terrifying siege of the American embassy and in the midst of the massacre claims the moral high ground accusing, the Americans of atrocities in the more…

#SluggerSoapbox: The impact of Stormont’s cuts on young people

Cuts being made at Executive level have not been thought through to community level – and the consequences could be significantly worse than Ministers anticipate argues Paul Smyth, Chief Executive of the youth focused charity Public Achievement. According to DETI, the unemployment figure in Northern Ireland (August to October 2014) was 6.3%. However the youth more…

Time for other parties to break Executive ranks as Sinn Fein sacrifices northern interests for southern ambitions

Following on from Mick, let’s  begin by making the best possible case for Sinn Fein, the party which seems the most intransigent in the inter- party talks. The Conservatives’ strategy for the next five years to a produce budget surplus of £23 billion by 2019-20 is probably unsustainable, unless the rate of growth picks up more…

Duplicity over parading scuppered graduated response

In Saturday’s edition of the News Letter Sammy Wilson MP MLA took a swipe at the ‘whingers’ who have dared question the duplicity that led to the withdrawal of TUV, PUP and UKIP from the ‘graduated response’. Back in July TUV set down a marker for our involvement, so it should come as no surprise more…

#SluggerSoapBox: In praise of Bob Purdie 1940 – 2014…

From Stephen Howe who is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, having previously taught for many years at Ruskin College Oxford and worked at the New Statesman.  Irish writings include the 2000 book Ireland and Empire, and contributions to Irish Political Studies, Irish Historical Studies, and the new Oxford Handbook of Modern more…