Let’s stop rearranging the border deckchairs

The distracting haze of our daily media sideshow – such as a severed wheel clamp, Jamie Bryson’s travel plans or a loaf of bread – brings with it the side-effect of obscuring an otherwise glaring point about our political tug-of-war. As sure as a new day brings with it a new ‘issue’ just divisive enough to keep the airwaves full of noise and drama without the effort of digging too deeply, it will also bring more and more material in … Read more

Did PSNI just change the script?

One standout take-away from the Belfast Telegraph’s ‘BelTelBomber’ piece was an unexpected response from police which cut to the very core of how large organisations deal with the media in two interesting ways. Firstly, a recap: the Belfast Telegraph’s story followed up on the Manchester bombing by sending a reporter to visit local tourist attractions, complete with a backpack, to check if he could do so without any checks. The newspaper’s front page was given over to the piece along … Read more

20 years on: Will the media outside NI ever catch up?

During the last election (for readers in the future – this means the March 2017 version) a throwaway tweet seemed to catch the eye of local news-nerds. And another variation on the same theme more recently had the same effect. The reason? A look at the headlines on the superb Newshound service for a few days in late March reveals plenty. Firstly, we have a Canadian academic and “supporter of the Irish peace process” who takes a look at the … Read more

Wrecking-ball Belfast – are we asking the right questions about right now?

The news that Belfast’s Movie House cinema on the Dublin Road could be flattened hasn’t troubled the headline writers too much. We all know how this goes, we’ll have a consultation then a new office block is likely to rise in its place. After all, we’ve asked ourselves the usual questions and for some the answers weren’t in much doubt: the Movie House isn’t particularly old and it definitely isn’t beautiful. So that’s that then. Or is it? There’s an … Read more

How we’ve reduced our identity to a Google Maps search

A Queen’s University student discovered some alarming home truths when he spent months investigating our addiction to the use of the blanket terms Protestant and Roman Catholic as a catch-all to describe the population of Northern Ireland. Roy Fisher, a print-maker and market trader who carried out the research for his Masters thesis, found that an increasing minority of employees who describe themselves as being of neither religion are still determined as being of one of those faiths due to Equality Legislation. … Read more

A city in colour: behind the scenes with a street art veteran

You don’t have to think (as I do) that Belfast’s street art puts a priceless, living vein through the heart of our city to be fascinated by how those ‘walls’ happened and where the local scene behind them is going next. Taking Dermot McConaghy as a great example, the established street artist explained how the scene has grown and where we might see the art appearing next. He also talked through the personal journey which brought much-loved pieces like Long … Read more

Publish or be damned: a party’s (very public) swipe at the Irish News

A brief ‘ICYMI’: an image appeared on Twitter at the end of last week criticising the Irish News over would-be coverage of Palestine the newspaper “chose to ignore”. Posted in the main Sinn Féin account on Thursday 8th, the image was published as a direct Twitter reply to a story the Irish News ran the same day featuring Palestinians voicing concerns over Sinn Féin meetings with Israel’s Likud party. The public broadside throws up some interesting points about the relationship … Read more

How Twitter is taking us beyond the PSNI’s closed doors

A quick one: over on his own blog a writer who describes himself on Twitter as a PSNI officer has just published a rarely-seen (WARNING – EXTREMELY GRAPHIC) glimpse into what are presented as some of the hardest days of a currently-serving police officer. For many years, Police Service of Northern Ireland social media policy for work social posts and security concerns for personal posts kept this kind of look at life beyond the PR hashtags and taglines to a … Read more

PSNI in 2016: Some hard choices we now need to make?

The Patten Report of 1999 famously led to the formation of the PSNI through a total of 175 recommendations covering a string of areas from human rights and oversight to – of course – the very name, size and composition of the organisation. With an Oversight Commissioner, Police Ombudsman, new District Policing Partnerships and a central Policing Board (and their associated costs) soon in place, Hugh Orde would often remark that his force had become the most accountable policing body in the … Read more

A love letter to William Crawley (et al.)

A few months a list written by an American visitor to England, detailing everything he found charming and/ or mysterious about his trip, went viral online. This week, when I stumbled on it again, it had the unexpected effect of causing me to think back to how I have enjoyed 30 years of Atlantic 252, John Peel, John Kelly, Radio Five, Gerry Anderson and, more recently, William Crawley as a near-constant background to everyday life. Why? Because one entry about … Read more

Before Xchange Summer School: What quarters make your Belfast?

Next week will see the doors opening on this year’s Xchange Summer School and the start of conversations including a section of the event set aside to consider whether Belfast is a “City of Seven Quarters”. The event, through a panel discussion taking stock of the buildings around us in Belfast 2016, is likely to look at issues such as heritage versus the economic benefits of new buildings and well as the impact of conflict not to mention ask if … Read more

Tail wagging the dog at last? Campaigners out to change the doorstep agenda

It was recently pointed out by Newton Emerson on The View that young people don’t vote and, when they do, they follow their parents’ lead. A necessary generalisation, of course, but it identifies one of a number of reasons why people in Northern Ireland will regularly malign their representation on The Hill but still return the same parties time and again. This is especially true in cases of a tactical vote against a particular party or when strength of feeling … Read more

Dealing with derelict buildings could transform our streets for the better

Derelict buildings are so much of a concern in Northern Ireland that millions of pounds have been spent on fake shop-fronts to hide the issue, with the added benefit that cameras here for the Giro d’Italia in 2014 didn’t catch sight of our dirty linen swinging in the breeze. In a way Belfast has previous for for this: just have a look through the windows of the mock frontage added to the row of houses at University Street (University Road … Read more

Orange Order’s NICS report: how do we stop citing neutral bystanders?

With apologies for the delayed response (I’ve been buried in job application forms – the simple words ‘apply by sending CV’ are now a truly beautiful thing to me), a fascinating statement at the start of Samuel Thompson’s piece on the Orange Order’s report on the NI Civil Service leapt off the page and warrants another look: “As an atheist I object to being called a Protestant but I suppose I could be termed part of the wider PUL community … Read more

Can we ever have crowd trouble without the cries of “them’uns”?

Another day, another series of TV reports showing council cleaners sweeping up glass and the odd hangover-on-legs staggering about looking for a fry. Could be any number of places on any number of nights, but one thing will be a constant on social media: armchair cops comparing the policing of the ‘event’ to whatever other occasion they can use to suit their particular brand of politics. To unpick the worthlessness of whataboutery when it comes to finding a solution to … Read more

Smoke-free hospitals: finger-wagging at the working class?

Back in 2004 John Reid went against the grain by warning the anti-smoking lobby that they ran the risk of “patronising” the working class.  His comments still echo into 2016 and through the announcement of a total ban on smoking in hospital grounds in Northern Ireland. First things first, though: the ban isn’t about “smokers outside the hospital doors” and nor is the issue at hand, as this would be solved by a simple smoking shelter policed with the zeal … Read more

BAFTA nominee Stephen Fingleton on life as a filmmaker in world-class NI

When Northern Ireland-based filmmaker Stephen Fingleton, the multi-award winning writer and director of acclaimed feature The Survivalist, talks about working as a film professional in Northern Ireland he describes a life of stark contrasts: from enjoying praise from the likes of Time Out, Mark Kermode and The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw to working from an office in Enniskillen; from sitting alongside Quentin Tarantino at a premiere to dealing personally with poor support from cinemas, and; from observing how the societal divides … Read more

What next for newspapers in NI: a shop-counter snapshot 

While a decision by the Independent newspaper to move to online-only has sparked another round of debate about the likes of clickbait and paywalls, thoughts also turn to the health of the main newspapers on sale closer to home. Not least among those talking about our own most popular titles this weekend are the buyers who continue to support the print versions of newspapers available in Northern Ireland. Their – often very blunt and at times grim – views about … Read more

Orange, green…time for a new idea on ‘the border’ in between?

An excellent piece by Belfast Barman recently asked why, since the dream/ threat of a United Ireland allegedly defines our politics in Northern Ireland, we rarely hear the details of how exactly it would work discussed by those in favour or the precise, alleged horrors of such a thing debated by those strongly against. In an even more recent post Colum Eastwood, however, starts to think – in broad terms – about what might be needed to bring about a … Read more

Social media case study: How Translink sets the right tone on Twitter

A well-executed Twitter account can speak volumes about an organisation: telling people that, through fast responses and even an ability to lighten the tone with customers, this is a company unafraid to drop committee-thinking and go eye-to-eye with their public online. One of the busiest accounts in Northern Ireland, Translink’s six-year-old @translink_ni presence, can see as many as 3,600 tweets posted in a month and 2,9000 replies sent, using December 2015 as an example, by staff given the freedom to … Read more