Why Brexit is going wrong and how it could be fixed…

This is the first of two posts here in which I’m going to look at Brexit through a democratic, rather than a political lens. I’d argue that Representative Democracy is humanity’s single most valuable invention. It has provided government that fosters a level of prosperity and a standard of justice that all of our ancestors could only dream of, and it has hosted history’s greatest period of innovation. Representative Democracy is a robust system. It has an internal logic – … Read more

Future Ireland / Nation-States Are Yesterday’s Politics – Let’s Review Our Terms and Conditions 

Global trends indicate that we are graduating from ideological party politics to voting based on personal priorities such as financial security. Trump’s America is the prime example. But, like their hurricanes, everything from the US eventually crosses the water and laps our shores. Unstoppable cultural homogeneity adds to this. With lightning speed our young people adopt the same fashion, music and patois globally. The extent to which this is manipulated by media giants, arms of government and lizard overlords is … Read more

Ruth Davidson’s threat to quit changes the odds for the DUP

When the history of these fraught days comes to be written, the backing of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson for the DUP position may be seen as the single most significant move. Her message is potent; if Northern Ireland is differentiated from GB , why not Scotland from England and Wales?  And that’s a gift to the SNP  and the cause of Scottish independence. Details emerged this afternoon of the letter she and Scottish secretary David Mundell sent to Theresa May. … Read more

Bitcoin must die

The UN this week released a report urging world governments to take immediate action to mitigate the effects of the coming climate catastrophe. It is no longer a case of whether catastrophe is coming. It is just a matter of how bad it will get. When tackling any problem two approaches can be taken, which are often complementary. The long term approach is to restructure the root causes and so lay the groundwork for lasting change. This takes political will, … Read more

Future Ireland / Economic Inequality: An emerging challenge for a New Ireland

In October last year, I attended a keynote speech delivered by President of Ireland Michael D Higgins to a packed auditorium at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The speech was anchored around Michael Davitt’s 1896 visit to New Zealand, a visit where Davitt was impressed by the then Crown Colony’s progressive policies on land, tax, pensions and the economy. Subsequently, the founder of the Irish National Land League brought a number of these innovative ideas back to Ireland, to … Read more

Why are we so bad at talking about sexual assault? And why it matters.

This week is Sexual Health Week and the theme is consent. It’s also the week Professor Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering whether to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In the wake of the Me Too campaign, the ‘Rugby Rape Trial’ and the many brave women who have since come forward to share their own experiences (and with them countless opinion pieces), it’s become increasingly clear to me how bad we … Read more

Bear witness for peace #PeaceDay #GRWeek18

Bear witness for peace #PeaceDay #GRWeek18 by Allan LEONARD 21 September 2018 In support for International Peace Day and in conjunction with Good Relations Week and Culture Night Belfast, Belfast City Council hosted an event that featured a keynote speech by Rev. Trevor Williams, addresses by Councillor Tim Attwood, Susan Picken, Jennifer Skillen, and Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey, and a music performance by Ciaran Lavery. Councillor Attwood, who is vice chair of the council’s Shared City Partnership, welcomed all. He … Read more

‘Your Belfast’ and the structural blindness of whiteness

A few weeks ago, a partnership of Visit Belfast and Belfast City Council launched a video for a new campaign, Your Belfast, aimed at supporting businesses in the city centre that were being adversely impacted by the cordon around the Bank Buildings, nearly destroyed in the Primark fire a few weeks ago. Many businesses that fall within the cordon are closed until further notice, but there are those close to the cordon that are also feeling the pinch of reduced … Read more

Future Ireland: Writing Competition

This is an open call for submissions on our current featured topic – Future Ireland: Alternative Conversations about Unity and the Union You can read a little more about the aims of the project here, and the types of contributions that we’re seeking. Here are some examples.  But we suspect that you might have some even better ideas. So we’re putting out an open call for articles on this topic.  The best three articles will win a prize (tbc – … Read more

Future Ireland: Alternative Conversations About Unity and the Union

The future of Northern Ireland is deeply uncertain. Brexit, the rise of English nationalism, Scotland, Stormont deadlock and demographic change make Irish unity a realistic alternative. The polls vary greatly, but some have unity very much within sight, especially if there is a harsh Brexit and a disruptive border. People are talking about this at kitchen tables across the north. But whilst we are highly engaged about if we would like unity or the union, and many of us have … Read more

The Pope’s visit revealed a Church at war between left and right and over the authority of the Pope. The result is deadlock

Two characteristics of the papacy of Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerged more clearly as a result of his brief visit to Ireland, neither of them encouraging. One was the local hierarchy’s relative powerlessness to influence what went on. Over the dashed hopes that he might come North, they talked like onlookers in the crowd. This goes flatly against all I ever assumed about the pledges of collegiality with local bishops after Vatican 2. The second is the relative powerless of the … Read more

Moral bases for liberalism

I picked up an interesting article over on Red Letter Christians yesterday (bear with me), pondering whether the Democratic Party has lost sight of Jonathan Haidt’s five core foundations of morality: Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity. Care means having compassion on the less fortunate and standing up for the underdog, even at great personal cost. Fairness means an emphasis on justice, equal rights and freedom from oppression. … Loyalty: This includes values like team play, military service, patriotism and sacrifice … Read more

The Pope calling those involved in abuse and coverup “caca”- excrement – will be remembered. But will it be significant?

  In a statement, the representatives from the Survivors of Mother and Baby Homes group said Francis condemned corruption and cover up within the Church as “caca”, an Italian and Spanish word for human excrement. The statement said that after the pope used the word, his translator explained that it meant “literally filth as one sees in a toilet.” A Vatican spokesman had no comment on the details of what was said in the meeting. A Vatican official said he … Read more

“He said [the Protestant] gene pool is so small they are all like the people from Deliverance.”

I cannot believe this is typical of the taxi drivers who give history tours of the trouble spots of Belfast, but it does provide a graphic illustration of what anti Protestant bigotry looks and sounds like: The next thing we drive down a street with a lot of Union Jacks, Scottish saltires and Red Hand of Ulster flags and he said ‘the reason the Protestants fly all these flags is because they have no culture of their own’,” Mr Liquerman … Read more

RTE’s celebration of John Hume feels like nostalgia for a time that has gone

RTE have just screened a documentary In the Name of Peace; John Hume in America by Maurice Fitzpatrick which the film maker has kindly drawn to my attention. Being in London I cannot access it yet nor have I read his accompanying book. But from the YouTube trail, this is a major celebration of John Hume’s life and work. Anybody who was anybody is in it, led by Clinton and Blair, although Jimmy Carter was not quite so dazzled.  As … Read more

Free conference at Queen’s University Belfast. Global Conflict: The Human Impact – 23-24 August 2018…

The conference, convened by Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Chicago, will be addressed by a range of distinguished speakers who will share their expertise on the Northern Ireland peace process, the peace process in Colombia, and the international refugee crisis, among other themes. Confirmed speakers include United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi; former US Senator George J. Mitchell; former US Assistant Secretary of State Anne C. Richard; Dominic MacSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide; and James Robinson, Reverend … Read more

The Trump Protests – The personal, the political, and the possible…

For the record, I didn’t travel to London to protest at Trump’s visit to the UK. But when large scale protests are taking place literally within chanting distance of your hotel room, then I wasn’t going to miss the chance to join in. The first protest, led by the Trump baby balloon (not overly impressive in the, em, plastic), had just made its way into Parliament Square as we arrived. I was immediately struck not only by the diversity of … Read more

Paisley apology to MPs, DUP and constituents – but none for Sri Lankans

It is difficult, therefore, to avoid the conclusion that the reason why the third visit was registered and the two earlier ones were not, was that Mr Paisley was conscious of the potential embarrassment that would be caused to him were it to become publicly known that he had accepted very expensive hospitality, for himself and his family, from a foreign government accused of serious human rights violations. This key passage from the House of Commons Standards Committee report into … Read more

“À la Bastille!” Again!

Once again, with apologies to Pierre Ranger… [It’s a tradition, we know… – Ed]  Indeed!  Play La Marseillaise!  [Any chance of a French winner on Stage 8? – Ed]  Probably not… Pete Baker

The Paradox of the Positive: Re-Examining American Independence Day

Ever since I moved to Belfast I’ve made a point of celebrating the Fourth of July, Independence Day. While I quickly learned that the parades from my childhood don’t have the same meaning here, I clung to and adapted other traditions that were a bit more portable and less sectarianized; namely, beer and barbecued meat. Also, the wearing of red, white and blue, but done discreetly, and without obvious American flag emblems masquerading as clothing (I’m looking at you, bizarre, … Read more