It’s time for an alternative food and farming vision that is fair to all — there is life beyond the commodities markets

Tuesday was the industry launch of the 2016 Year of Food – an exercise in marketing that showcases the hard-working small farmers across NI and the great local products they give us, from grassfed beef to wheaten bread. In timing that only the cynical media gods could have arranged, on the very same day two other reports were released that presented a far less rosy picture of the food chain here and on the mainland. First, the UK media widely … Read more

Piece: A DIY manifesto for promoting Northern Ireland

Last week Game of Thrones actor Kit Harrington got lots of attention after he affectionately criticised the Northern Irish tourism strategy of over-promoting the bad things that have happened here. In particular he poked fun at the relentlessly upbeat and proud promotion of as the city that built the Titanic, which of course was an epic disaster. I don’t agree with the overall sentiment of his comments, especially that there is nothing to do here after three days. But he … Read more

The arts are more than just a pleasant diversion – the arts are essential to quality of life

It’s been a bad few days for arts groups. Queen’s University announced Friday it would no longer be funding the Belfast Festival. Then, yesterday morning, came the Arts Council cuts and a brutal BBC Radio Ulster interview with Roisin McDonough and Green Shoot Productions. Roisin McDonagh was there to take the fall for a failure of political and civil service leadership. The responsibility for these cuts should not fall solely on the shoulders of the arts community. While it is … Read more

Abortion: a common secret holding women hostage to man-made law

I recently re-watched a documentary called Daughters of the Troubles, a piece of work from the late 1990’s produced and directed by American filmmaker Marcia Rock, and written by late Belfast author Jack Holland (more commonly known to me as Dad.) It tells the story of the Troubles and the working class communities they most affected through the lives of two women, Catholic Geraldine O’Regan, and Protestant May Blood, who not only coped with the violence around them, but actively … Read more

Tonight Charlie Hebdo bleeds: are we paying attention yet?

Violence is endemic to humankind. There is no group of people or period of history that has been spared at least some level of violence. When you are at the business end of gun, you probably do not really care what the motive is. But the rest of us should. The staff of Charlie Hebdo were targeted because they spoke their mind. The fact that 10 of them lie dead tonight is an attack on us all. There is a … Read 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 region. This from the man who set his own family up for slaughter and then personally put a bullet in his nephew’s head for good … Read more

From ‘civic unionism’ to ‘devo-brats’

  It’s been a sad few weeks for those of us who crave a new story line in Northern Irish politics. First came the lovely speech from Gregory “Toilet Paper” Campbell, which provoked several low-brow responses from the Shinners in return. Then this week it was the news that yet another attempt to shake up the status quo had died a death. The news here on Slugger garnered only slight interest, wracking up a mere 138 views. And more importantly, we … Read more

New York or Belfast? I choose Belfast

Comparing Belfast to New York is a bit like comparing a Ferrari to a bus. But it’s something I do often, having recently moved back to Belfast after living in the self-appointed ‘capital of the world’ for close to 15 years. My most recent trip down memory lane was prompted by the closure of yet another old time New York bar, this time Smith’s Bar and Restaurant in Manhattan. This news came on the heels of the announcement of Taylor Swift … Read more

Small but significant steps in overcoming old hatreds

Progressive Unionist Party city counsellor John Kyle was at an event Monday night to welcome a delegation of visitors from cities living through or coming out of violence and conflict. Iraqis, Palestinians, Jews, Lebanese, Bosnians and Nigerians, as well as Northern Irish Protestants and Catholics came to Belfast under the aegis of Forum for Cities in Transition.  On the first day of the event, they gathered in the grandeur of Stormont – that architectural throwback to the glory days of … Read more

Reconciliation through resilience – the hard work of peacemaking from the ground up

Following the news is a particularly depressing activity most days. With war, suffering and division making headlines, a person would be forgiven for thinking that seven decades after the defeat of Nazism, 20 years after genocide in Bosnia, and over a decade after the 9/11 attacks, humankind is marching away from progress and civility, not toward it.   Here in Northern Ireland, we can be grateful that the gunmen and bombers no longer stalk our streets, murdering innocent people in … Read more

Lessons from the past

Last week I spied an interesting fact in the New Statesman’s piece on Richard Nixon. “By March 1970 the US was dropping 130,000 tonnes of bombs every month on North Vietnam, eastern Cambodia and Laos with the aim of disrupting the safe havens used by the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Vietcong, and holding back the Khmer Rouge.” And we all know how well that worked out. The lessons of the past hang like a spectre over the present. … Read more

Cameron begs, Scotland forgives

The results are in and Scotland voted no to independence. There is little point in asking ‘what if’, but one scenario we can all agree was never going to happen was it all ending with British tanks on the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh. When was the last time a matter as serious as secession – with the issues of nuclear weapons and oil thrown in – resolved so peacefully? When was the last time a head of government responded … Read more

Selling ‘Togetherness’ when all over the world people are separating and atomising

It was only a few days ago that the debate over Scottish independence was brought into sharp focus for me. As a person born in Dublin of American and Northern Irish parentage, the politics of London – never mind Edinburgh – were at a remove for me. The idea that Scotland might separate from the UK and form its own tiny country seemed too far-fetched to take seriously. Well, no longer. But it’s clear to me now that the campaign … Read more