Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Comment Archives for JH

Co-founder of a tech start-up based in Belfast. Divide my time between Belfast, Dublin and Galway.
  1. Comment on NI21 launch a diverse squad of 47 council candidates – will any get elected?
    on 24 April 2014 at 1:01 am

    Occam’s Razor… If a group of otherwise capable people do something that looks insane then there’s probably something else going on.

    Maybe it’s the case that having some data on performance is more valuable than the position they’re currently in – having none at all. Even if it means adopting a strategy that dooms your first run to failure.

    In fairness, they probably weren’t going to get anything anyway this time around.

    The open, public discourse on policy, the access to the ‘founders’, the high-availability on social media, the “we’re not sure what we are yet but you can be part of defining it” attitude, it’s all Lean Startup 101.

    Or maybe that’s just crediting them with too much sense. Who knows. It’s fun to speculate.

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  2. Comment on NI21 launch a diverse squad of 47 council candidates – will any get elected?
    on 23 April 2014 at 11:40 pm

    I wonder if they aren’t just trying to put a score on the board.

    It’s a ubiquitous strategy in internet startups to launch a practically unusable version of a new product onto the market as a first pass in order to start collecting data as soon as possible.

    It’s a painful process but extremely effective if you can keep your nerve because the feedback is so useful. In the case of NI21 they might consider it OK for every candidate to fail so long as they can collect data on why each one failed and a set of analytics for the next run.

    I don’t know if the analogy works, Comrade would know better right? But Tina hasn’t got a chance in Europe, nor most of the candidates at local level, so one must assume they’re not doing it for the good of their health.

    I hope this is the reason, because otherwise they’re just throwing everything they have at the wall to if anything sticks.

    And it’s not just the party and candidates that are brand new. The decentralised, better-judgement style of policy making is an experiment too.

    E.g. one of the council candidates has published their preference for a 75% rate of income tax for individuals earning over £200,000 per year. One wonders how that squares with the Party view of fiscal conservatism.

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  3. Comment on NI21 announce their Euro Candidate @NI21Chair Tina McKenzie
    on 7 April 2014 at 11:38 am

    Hate to be a naysayer but I have to agree with most of these comments, there’s simply no content to that video.

    NI21 seem to want to get across why they exist at every opportunity without actually giving away anything on policy.

    They say we need ‘radical change’. What kind of radical change? What does it look like? What are the achievable outcomes?

    How does the opportunity cost compare to other radical change already on the table; for example a united Ireland or the abolition of Stormont?

    Finally, you take a large number of people with widely divergent views, call it the ‘silent majority’ and then start telling people what it wants.

    Sorry.

    The non-voting bloc is as diverse, if not more-so, than the voting bloc. At best you get a small portion of it, although since it self-identifies as non-voting even that should be an uphill struggle.

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  4. Comment on NI21 announce their Euro Candidate @NI21Chair Tina McKenzie
    on 7 April 2014 at 1:48 am

    A few things it might be worth asking Tina;

    This party have no experience in European politics, who will be advising them and what will the learning period be before representation will be effective?

    Which EU party(s) will they be aligning with?

    What are their positions on EU hot topics, like Net neutrality and CAP reform?

    They don’t have a voting record. Since both Britain and Ireland are in the EU, the national issue is irrelevant and questions like this are important to know exactly what we’re voting for.

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  5. Comment on Anna Lo, and the Myth that Northern Ireland Politics is about the Border
    on 24 March 2014 at 2:35 am

    I really resent the common use of the term ‘Nationalist’ to refer to someone who would vote for a united Ireland; it’s presumptuous and insulting.

    In that sense I can share a bit of Anna Lo’s frustration.

    Given a choice I’d vote for a united Ireland. Not because I yearn for the day of impassioned reunion. Because if we could solve all of our differences tomorrow our prospects within the UK would be average at best.

    In that sense Alliance are starting to sound like an interesting proposition. It all hinges on what they do next. Will they snuff this out because Lo’s views are inconvenient? Or will they nurture this as a defining example of what makes them unique.

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  6. Comment on Anna Lo- A United Ireland would be better placed economically, socially and politically
    on 21 March 2014 at 2:30 pm

    CS:

    I think you’re right on the NHS, it’s incredible. However I do have to take you up on a couple of things.

    “the rates of which are all, last time I checked, higher than the corresponding rates of tax and National Insurance in the UK”

    This isn’t my experience in practice when factoring in national insurance, student loan contributions (Uni is free with comparatively low registration charge in the South) and a lower allowance.

    Obviously this is anecdotal, but in Belfast I was paying a combined ~35% on a wage 1/3 of what I was being offered in Dublin.

    It’s also true that you have to pay for doctor visits (~50 EUR) and prescriptions; however treatment is free with a medical card and private cover is almost ubiquitous for those in employment.

    I don’t believe dentist costs are cheaper in the UK solely because of competition brought by the NHS, I think you also have to factor in an average lower level of disposable income and a greater supply of dentists.

    I agree that the NHS is incredible and the Irish health system in desperate need of improvement.

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  7. Comment on Anna Lo- A United Ireland would be better placed economically, socially and politically
    on 21 March 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Interesting economic points from Michael and Neil.

    The point is that tax avoidance really isn’t an issue. In fact it’s not really an issue in the UK either. I’d wager that behind closed doors both the UK and Irish governments would rather abolish CT on multi-nationals altogether if they could handle the diplomacy and the response from the left.

    Job creation and the trickle-down boost to indigenous ancillary service companies is the name of the game.

    What’s more important, in my opinion, is the second generation of investment the South now has. That is to say, people who’ve exited companies and are putting the money and expertise back into the economy in the form of venture capital. It provides the lubrication needed to spin small startups into huge enterprises, to give young companies a fair crack of the whip on the international stage.

    This takes decades to build and the North hasn’t made any real headway. The seed investment scene is dominated by one or two prominent angels, with most coming directly from a Government-backed fund. The Series A+ scene is non-existent.

    Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be much prospect of it building either while the levers of control are in London. And so we end up with the chicken/egg problem. Is the Union really our only option because no-one else could afford us? Or is it that the relationship is actually depressing our economy and keeping it subservient?

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  8. Comment on Anna Lo- A United Ireland would be better placed economically, socially and politically
    on 20 March 2014 at 3:33 pm

    “Hmm so a lack of nationalist vision for a future UI = unionism on its arse… I think that stands on its own merits.”

    Type ‘Anna Lo’ into Twitter search and read the comments flowing from Unionist politicians and wonks. There’s little doubt she completely blind-sided everyone.

    As for her being naive, I’m not so sure. I think she’s just bluntly honest. She showed up to a panel at QUB and described non-STEM as ‘soft subjects’. The event was organised by the politics society.

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  9. Comment on Anna Lo- A United Ireland would be better placed economically, socially and politically
    on 20 March 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Hehe, I don’t think I said that Zep.

    What Morpheus said:
    “There is absolutely no point in SF or any of our political parties coming up with a proposal because it won’t even be looked at by half the population of Northern Ireland. It needs to be independent.”

    The reason this whole Lo incident has put Unionism on its arse is that she’s an unknown quantity. Her view could be infectious amongst a certain section of people once that door is ajar, it gives credibility to a position they’ve focussed on using SF’s past to discredit.

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  10. Comment on Anna Lo- A United Ireland would be better placed economically, socially and politically
    on 20 March 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Perhaps that would be better done by a non-party aligned group and presented purely as evidence to all parties.

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  11. Comment on Anna Lo- A United Ireland would be better placed economically, socially and politically
    on 20 March 2014 at 1:56 pm

    I don’t see the great controversy. The economic evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of a single island economic unit in the long term, even factoring in a protracted getting-to-know-you period.

    Her comment about being anti-colonialist is statement on her own heritage rather than ours.

    Frankly, if the Unionist economic argument is so self-evident I don’t why they’re not taking her up on that. All the criticism so far has been based on bending the colonialism statement.

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  12. Comment on After the Currency Union debate the #IndyRef is dead, so long live the SNP…
    on 20 February 2014 at 2:26 pm

    DC

    Hmm that’s interesting. If they take a hardline position now they’ll lose the referendum for sure but possibly be better positioned in the negotiations.

    …assuming that in the event of a ‘yes’ more than half of what’s in the remaining UK’s interests isn’t also in the emergent Scotland’s. In that case it’d be conceding the referendum to end up with the same hand in negotiations.

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  13. Comment on After the Currency Union debate the #IndyRef is dead, so long live the SNP…
    on 20 February 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I think if you’re an Irish person (or N Irish or, perhaps especially, a northern Unionist) you need to add significant handicaps to your margins of error in working out how this is going to go.

    If you’re working out what you think the final outcome will be I’d add about 20% ambiguity for illusory correlation; you should assume that even at your best efforts your perception will be coloured by our own situation.

    Then I’d add at least another 10% for that classic Irish trait of benign pessimism.

    We live in a time when three companies have plans to send large numbers of people to Mars within 30 years.

    When self-made billionaire entrepreneurs want to break California into six states and secede from the US.

    When we carry access to all the World’s information in our pockets.

    This is just a referendum on a relatively small constitutional change in a tiny part of the world – it’s close and there are months to go.

    Lighten up. :)

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  14. Comment on After losing its Shakespearean plot Newtownabbey returns to the 21st Century…
    on 29 January 2014 at 8:03 am

    I can’t decide if the Deputy Mayor’s action zagged the party and made them look weak or was actually shrewd damage limitation, keeping stock with the flat-Earthers but showing everyone else that common sense wins out and it’s really just a few rotten eggs.

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  15. Comment on Could raising the minimum wage hurt NI?
    on 22 January 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Hmm, it’s a tough problem and there are no absolutes IMO.

    E.g. Someone brought up the high pay public sector workers get relative to the large portion of the private sector that depends on minimum wage.

    On the face of it the solution would appear to be to cap public sector wages and allow others to catch up. The problem is that per capita spend would go down disproportionately and hit a lot of those employers; shops, bars, restaurants etc, effectively reducing the capital available for employment. On the other hand it’s those higher wages that are keeping prices relatively stable here, buoying the cost of living and thus exacerbating the divide.

    I don’t know the answer but I know it’s more complicated than just a gut feeling. Throw into the mix that a lot of those on minimum wage are on zero-hour or so-called ‘matrix’ contracts and it muddies the waters further. These people probably won’t be any better off as they’ll just lose an hour here or there to make up the difference in a MW increase.

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  16. Comment on #Haass talks D-Day-No Agreement
    on 31 December 2013 at 12:46 am

    Horse:
    “If the British Flag flies over Derry and Newry, it would be a very hard sell for SF and SDLP.”

    It would indeed. I wonder what they got in return for that. ;)

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  17. Comment on Update-When Manley met Robinson – Irish News finally gets an interview
    on 22 November 2013 at 11:30 am

    “the DUP’s pro-business approach would be an attractive feature to many Nationalists”

    Their what? Can anyone give me example of this?

    A lot of Belfast traders and business-owners would beg to differ.

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  18. Comment on Diane Dodds gets the DUP’s nomination for Europe…
    on 13 November 2013 at 3:23 am

    Is there really no hope of a substantial drop in the DUP vote?

    Is it really so elastic that it can weather default from all but the flat-earth whackjob demographic?

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  19. Comment on SDLP need a ‘violent storm’ or two to learn how to sail a ‘ship of war’…
    on 12 November 2013 at 3:49 am

    Charles:
    “SDLP should be about left politics.”

    Actually, I disagree. All parties here are about left politics, bar maybe the UUP. DUP like to swan about acting conservative whilst passing anti-competitive Tesco taxes and whatnot.

    SDLP are fishing in particular waters, and those waters are already oversubscribed with Marxist options.

    Yet what people say at the polls and in Nolan audiences and how they really feel when they get into the booth are two different things.

    If the SDLP really wanted to get ahead they’d put some of those younger brains front and center and lead with a radical, strong economic policy. Money talks, and they primarily appeal to middle class liberals. In fact a lot of their youth *are* the middle class liberals, and people can smell bullshit a mile away.

    The NI21 thing will probably fizzle out but I do think it’s an indication of market forces currently driving large parts of the electorate. Big Shiny New Thing™ politics is in and it seems like this period is particularly friendly to rebirth.

    So swap out a few MLAs who’ve had their day, up the ante on policy, make a show of bitchslapping any opponent who tries to personalise a point of principle again (see Dungannon) and start acting like a party on the charge, with the confidence to use a vote if they happened to get one.

    For the record, mine’s up for grabs.

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