Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights


Friday thread: Perhaps ‘War’ brings a properly social benefit after all?

Fri 11 April 2014, 3:54pm
Morris War

Tweet Today’s Friday thread is a talk delivered yesterday at the RSA in London by Ian Morris, author of a new book which posits the controversial idea that, over time, war is actually good for us, not necessarily as individuals but as societies. The presentation is fairly short but it was around this part I […] more »

Hunger Strike: Margaret Thatcher’s Battle With the IRA (1980-1981)

Thu 3 April 2014, 6:48pm
Hunger Strike Hennessey thumb

Tweet Hunger Strike: Margaret Thatcher’s Battle With the IRA (1980-1981) Thomas Hennessy Irish Academic Press, 488pp, £19.99 A senior member of the royal family is blown up on his yacht together with his 14-year-old grandson, another teenager and an elderly lady. Hours later, 18 soldiers are killed by two roadside bombs in an ambush on […] more »

@LMcAtackney on #Archaeology of the Troubles at #PRONI

Thu 3 April 2014, 8:53am

Tweet There is a launch tonight in PRONI’s (under-used!) building this evening for Dr Laura McAtackney‘s new book on The Archaeology of the Troubles/The dark heritage of Long Kesh/Maze prison. There are four speakers at the launch, including Laura and Professor Cahal McLaughlin of Queens’s University Belfast who will set the scene by presenting documented personal narratives […] more »

Truth or justice: Highly unlikely that most us will ever have either…

Fri 28 March 2014, 10:40am
truth commissioner

Tweet Riffing of Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe, Seamus comes up with an argument you sense has been much talked about under wraps but which no one has the political strength (rather than confidence) to ask for: The only legitimate way to end yet more years of speculation and anguish for the McConville family […] more »

The Last Story of Reverend Robert Bradford

Sun 9 March 2014, 4:34pm
Me at Dublin Web Summit 2013

Tweet   In a journalism climate adverse to costly, time-intensive investigations, Belfast writer Lyra McKee is hoping to defy the odds by using the power of the internet to crowdfund her book about the last weeks of murdered South Belfast MP, Rev Robert Bradford. D emocracy depends on good investigative reporting. When society loses its […] more »

The Belfast Urban Motorway (Wesley Johnston): economic, engineering, political and social drivers that created Belfast’s road network

Mon 3 March 2014, 9:00am
The Belfast Urban Motorway Wesley Johnston bookcover

Tweet Imagine an elevated three-lane motorway encircling Belfast city centre. A mini-M25 taking through-traffic off the inner-city streets, serving all parts of the city equally? Imagine the noise and pollution from an above ground ring-road, jammed full beyond its intended capacity, severing communities with its concrete and tarmac. A monument to the victory of private […] more »

“For the celebrity, the interview is thus generally reduced to an exercise in saying as little as possible without confounding the self-love of the journalist on the sofa”

Sun 19 January 2014, 10:42pm
a-week-at-the-airport cover

Tweet Alain de Botton spent seven days living in a Heathrow hotel and working from a desk in the newly opened Terminal 5 in order to write a short book A Week at the Airport . He cast his voyeuristic glances in all directions, commentating on the sense of passion and the moment of separation […] more »

A is for Activist

Sat 28 December 2013, 7:27pm
A is for Activist cover

Tweet From an early age, children are introduced to animals, right and wrong, concepts of fulfilment and disappointment, fear and joy, all through chewed hardback books. Princesses are in need of rescue, dogs misbehave and talk, mice covet strawberries. Wealth is equated with happiness, poverty with sorrow. How do you introduce the concepts of social […] more »

“I want a society where we will have politics & not a sectarian pantomime” (Alf McCreary in 1976)

Mon 23 December 2013, 8:30am
Alf McCreary Behind the Headlines

Tweet In his autobiography Behind the Headlines, Alf McCreary recalls his editor’s leading article in the Belfast Telegraph on 5 November 1968 in which Jack Sayers wrote: The threat to Northern Ireland’s future is not … the IRA or even Nationalism. It comes from Protestant Ulstermen who will not allow themselves to be liberated from […] more »

Book Review: Battle for Britain: Scotland and the Independence Referendum

Thu 12 December 2013, 1:01pm
Battle for Britain and Scotland

Tweet The Battle for Britain: Scotland and the Independence Referendum. By David Torrance. London: Biteback Books 2013. pp.xiv + 370. Paperback. The nature of the policies advocated by those seeking a ‘Yes’ vote in the September 2014 referendum on whether Scotland should depart the 306-year union dominate this timely and often insightful book. Perhaps its […] more »

Scotland’s Future … an introductory guide (that shouldn’t be ignored by NI)

Wed 27 November 2013, 12:01am
Scotlands Future cover

Tweet The Scottish Government’s 670 page long white paper Scotland’s Future was published today. The document reads like a cross between a party manifesto and a giant FAQ. It’s tone is of modernity and a progressive Scotland. Issues around independence are opportunities not challenges – and derivations of “opportunity” appear four times more often than […] more »

Beyond Transparency – could NI embrace open data?

Thu 7 November 2013, 8:45am
Beyond Transparency cover

Tweet Open Data initiatives in Northern Ireland have been – to date – relatively stumbling affairs that fall far behind London-led efforts. (The inability to use Translink timetable and bus stop geocode data to build an independent third-party NI travel app was particularly exasperating.) However, there has been some movement and the alignment of planets, […] more »

Alternative Ulsters: Conversations on Identity (Mark Carruthers)

Mon 4 November 2013, 9:01am
Mark Carruthers Alternative Ulsters

Tweet Mark Carruthers describes his new book Alternative Ulsters as a “collection of conversations” and “an attempt to take the notional temperature of a place where identity tends to inform a great deal of the day-to-day civic debate”. The book has a simple structure: three and a half pages of introduction followed by thirty six […] more »

#Lethal Allies: this is not collusion.

Fri 1 November 2013, 4:18pm
Lethal Allies

Tweet This is much worse. The publication of Ann Cadwalladers Lethal Allies last month by Mercier Press was always going to have a relatively predictable reception. In many ways, nationalists and republicans have largely accepted that there was participation by members of the security forces in providing intelligence, weapons and targeting information to loyalist/unionist paramilitary groups from the […] more »

From Arkiv to Haaas. A way out of the deadlock for dealing with the past

Wed 30 October 2013, 10:36am

Tweet   It’s heart warming to find  some of the ideas I’ve been grappling with being taken forward with real authority and integrity. As reported in the Newsletter  a  firm and positive set of  proposals for dealing with the past has been submitted to the Haass talks by a group of historians calling themselves Arkiv. The […] more »

With all this regressive hyperbole about NI’s past, is it time for a new sustainable narrative?

Mon 28 October 2013, 9:57am
Lethal Allies

Tweet Good piece from Tom Kelly in the Irish News this morning, which subtly identifies the problem with the exaggerated claims of recent stories in the media. At a time when voter registration is falling right across the board, it’s an impoverished narrative to be offering voters who are already switching off from Stormont in […] more »

Tony Bailie’s ‘A Verse to Murder’: Book Review

Tue 22 October 2013, 12:32am

Tweet Maurice Burns’ cover merits study–it’s well chosen and ties into this mystery within, as elaborated by an informant. The title, a play off of the ‘murder of crows’, echoes in the name of Barry Crowe, a Belfast journalist (or is it ‘sleazy tabloid hack’?) pursuing the backstory behind the sudden demise, apparently by auto-asphyxiation, […] more »

Vo Nguyen Giap, 1911-2013

Fri 4 October 2013, 3:41pm

Tweet The death has been announced in Hanoi of Vo Nguyen Giap, the self-taught general who drove the French out of Vietnam. His generalship at the pivotal battle of Dien Bien Phu, freeing the North from colonial rule and then later forcing the Americans to abandon their support for the various regimes in South Vietnam, was […] more »

‘To the winds our sails: Irish writers translate Galician poetry’: Book Review

Wed 25 September 2013, 1:17am

Tweet This 2010 anthology collects five poems each from ten Galician women. Irish poets translate four per poet from an English-language crib, with the remaining one rendered into Irish itself. The results reveal some of the revived enthusiasm and energy emanating from this northwestern corner of Iberia, with its alleged ancient ties to the Celtic […] more »

Graham Spencer’s Protestant Identity and Peace in Northern Ireland: Can the Churches Contribute?

Thu 5 September 2013, 8:01pm

Tweet A recent book by Graham Spencer, Protestant Identity and Peace in Northern Ireland (Palgrave, 2012), provides an insightful complement to a conversation that has been gathering some pace in Northern Ireland’s public sphere: What role, if any, might churches play in our post-violence transition, which right now seems stuck? I’ve raised the question on […] more »

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