The emergence of a middle ground?

Landscape near Carrick-a-Rede Roap Bridge in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

In my first post (here) about Identities in NI I described the rise of a group of Non-Religious people who now form a political sector almost as large as that of Catholics: I suggested that the Non-Religious would vote Alliance. In my second post (here) I showed that while None had been the most preferred party until around 2019, it was replaced by Alliance, particularly in the No Religion group. I also showed that the Non-Religious did not feel themselves …

Read more…

Local solution to a global problem: community wealth building and climate action – Free live event at Queen’s…

team spirit, teamwork, community

What are the opportunities for local government and communities to address the climate crisis, deliver effective climate action in ways that secure jobs, reduce inequality and shift our economies beyond ‘business as usual’? One answer is community wealth building, a new model for local economic development that creates a more democratic and just economy, and also delivers substantive returns on achieving decarbonisation targets and climate adaptation. Evidence from Preston and North Ayrshire in the UK shows that community wealth building …

Read more…

Last week demonstrated diversity is Nationalism’s strength, not its weakness.

A bird can’t fly on its right wing I have been watching over the past number of days the debate around the Armagh Church Service with great interest. On The View on Thursday night, there was a variety of different perspectives within Nationalism on show from Claire Hanna, Jim O’Callaghan and Pearse Doherty. If last week proved anything about the New Ireland movement it’s that we don’t all think alike. Partition evokes many emotions, if you want unification, those emotions …

Read more…

Somewhere along a slightly different path is a better future for the union, if we look for it now…

phone, old, year of construction 1955

“I don’t care what religion you are. I don’t care what gender you are. I don’t care what your ethnic background is. You can be Unionist and will be welcome in a Union of people?” – Doug Beattie, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, 2021 Is this as inclusive, diverse and progressive as political Unionism gets? Is there deeper meaning in saying to those of diverse ethnicity, gender and religion that as a Unionist…….. I do care? Individuals in Northern Ireland …

Read more…

A Future of Grace? Reflections on the Church Leaders’ Service

Irish President Michael D. Higgins’ decision to decline his invitation to this week’s service of reflection and hope on the centenary of partition and the creation of Northern Ireland was handled gracelessly, with considerable confusion and a stunning lack of communication. But the controversy provoked by Higgins meant that far more people on the island were paying attention to what was said and done at the service, which was organized by the Church Leaders’ Group and took place at St …

Read more…

Does Northern Ireland Need Another City?

cars, road, street

An unspecified number of towns across the UK are due to have city status bestowed upon them next year as part of the Queen’s Platinum (70 years) Jubilee, which means that the wait is on to see if Northern Ireland will gain its sixth (and possibly even its seventh ?) city. Under UK law cities can only be created if they are chartered by the monarch – or more accurately in modern times, via an Act of Parliament. Local authorities …

Read more…

The Armagh service confirmed the fragile nature of reconciliation and left the hard issues hanging

On the hill of Armagh yesterday, the theme of British-Irish reconciliation held – just – despite the absence of the two heads of state that would have significantly  confirmed it at a difficult time.  Perhaps in the end the Queen’s absence although unfortunate was in a way fortuitous. The event would have seemed unbalanced. Her presence alone might have overemphasised the  dread  theme of “ partition” over which  the President  took such exception. As Miriam Lord has written in her …

Read more…

“Sinn Féin begged on bended knee for an effective amnesty in criminal law for IRA historic crimes…’

I wasn’t going to mention the death of Dennis Hutchings in mid trial from complications arising from Covid 19. Mostly because I couldn’t see enough debatable politics in it when his story took a final and tragic (for all concerned) turn. However, it moved Senator Michael McDowell (a former Minister of Justice for some time in the noughties) to out some of those who have been loud in their condemnation of the British government’s intention to install an amnesty. His …

Read more…

Through each post GFA crisis the middle ground is slowly building…

books, shelves, door

It is tempting to suggest that whatever crisis we’re going through is the worst yet. Most of them since the establishment of the new Stormont institutions have been, in one way or another, crises of legitimacy. As is current one over the Protocol. We may think that the legitimacy of the current institutions derive from the paper documentation of the Belfast Agreement, but in fact it is something that has to be fought over on a day and day, month …

Read more…

Energy crisis: Gas to rise 50%, consumers paying £1,000 more for energy than last year…

read, socks, coffee

This winter is looking absolutely grim. Supply problems for shops, staff shortages, health services on the verge of collapse it just gets bleaker and bleaker. The latest kick in the nuts is energy prices are expected to surge once again. From the Irish News: RISING costs have left the average consumer in the north paying £1,000 more for energy than last year, amid the worst price shock since the 1970s. Northern Ireland’s Utility Regulator has warned that soaring wholesale gas …

Read more…

Keir Starmer urged to field Labour candidates in Northern Ireland elections…

The perennial issue of Labour running candidates in Northern Ireland has popped up again. From the Daily Mirror: Keir Starmer is being pressed to allow Labour to field candidates in Northern Ireland elections. The move could give the Labour leader the few extra MPs he might need in a tight general election. Labour currently backs its sister party, the nationalist SDLP, which has two MPs and 12 assembly members. But shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry said: “We should be offering …

Read more…

Police raid the headquarters of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council offices…

A low-hanging sun combined with an incoming winter storm created this beautiful sunset over Whitehead on the coast of Belfast Lough. The coast of County Down, on the far side of the lough, can be seen on the horizon (Jan., 2020).

In theory, running a council should be a simple enough process. You take out the bins, you keep the parks pretty, you work to ensure your ratepayers are content with their lot.  But a touch of Rotten Boroughs seems to have infected Mid and East Antrim Borough Council over the past few years and they are often embroiled in one controversy or another. From Brendan Hughes in the Daily Mirror: A PSNI spokeswoman said: “Detectives from Criminal Investigation Branch visited …

Read more…

Will Stormont’s “indifference” over petroleum licensing see an industry rollover jackpot by default?

ecology, globe, concept

In the often mundane world of Assembly questions a recent response by the Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons is remarkable in its implications. First among these is the potential for a re-run of the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) situation whereby taxpayers continued to make good bad financial and policy calculations on a massive scale. In response to a question by the Green Party’s Rachel Woods, the Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons, stated that: ‘I am not in a …

Read more…

Are Sainsbury’s considering pulling out of Northern Ireland?

Shelves emptied of toilet paper, due to panic buying

Sainsbury’s is to close its Craigavon store with 109 jobs at risk. The bigger question is are they considering pulling out of Northern Ireland altogether? From the BBC story: The union has questioned whether Brexit has been a factor in the decision. Ms Trainor said: “The rationale offered by Sainsbury’s for this closure include changing demographics, which makes little sense except that as a cover for the impact of post-Brexit trading arrangements under the Northern Ireland Protocol.” In April, Sainsbury’s …

Read more…

Brendan Kennelly 1936-2021

It’s been a sad few days for Irish literature as we note the passing of two notable Irish literary figures. Máire Mhac an tSaoi was not only a poet, but also an Irish language scholar, author and at one point a career diplomat. It is Brendan Kennelly’s passing that I feel the most, however. Coming from a scientific background I am no literary critic, but to me his work seems accessible, powerful, impactful and unpretentious all at the same time. …

Read more…

Reconciliation means moving beyond simplified explanations to a citizen’s view of the long term…

embrace, hug, solidarity

This long term perspective from Jarlath Kearney last week in his Irish News column is a piece of the bigger picture which (I reckon at least) we all really need to hear (if “it’s not too much effort not to have another war”)… There’s too much play-acting at peace-making. Reconciliation needs our urgent, relentless attention. It’s a lifetime journey – not an election cycle. Society properly focuses on big ticket news items like Brexit and borders. Similar attention is needed …

Read more…

ESRC Festival: Exploring Belfast’s Medical Past…

aircraft carrier infirmary, hospital, navy

The 2020 COVID pandemic turned Belfast into a desolate city. Shops, schools, pubs, restaurants, churches all closed. The city’s usually bustling streets took on an eerie atmosphere. The lack of cars, planes and taxis created an ominous silence. Part of COVID’s defining experience was how unique it felt to us. We hadn’t experienced a pandemic for an entire century since the 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed 50,000,000 people worldwide. However, historically, disease outbreaks were a day-to-day occurrence and part of life. …

Read more…

Why mixed messaging cannot work for Doug Beattie or indeed the UUP

implement, do, implementation

‘In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.’ – Miyamoto Musashi Following the General Election of 2010, the UUP produced an internal report addressing the electoral performance of the party which had campaigned with the Conservative party in what was known, rather clumsily, as the UCU-NF initiative. Probably not enough time was given to the process. Based on an earlier European election in which UUP …

Read more…

Failed candidates, don’t give up on your Assembly dream…

northern ireland, stormont, parliament

Selecting an Assembly candidate can be a fraught and tense business for many local associations but what does it feel like to be an unsuccessful contender? On Tuesday last I had the pleasure of putting my name forward to be the next Alliance Party candidate for the forthcoming Assembly elections. It turned out to be a hugely rewarding experience even though the result did not necessarily go my way. More generally, I believe that we should explore how unsuccessful candidates …

Read more…

NI universities come together for the Festival of Social Science 2021

Queen’s and Ulster University come together once again for the annual Festival of Social Science 2021. This year, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science in Northern Ireland will run from 1-30 November and will feature 21 free events organised by social science academics from both universities. The UK-wide Festival aims to open up social science research to new audiences by showing how such research has an influence on our everyday lives. Now in its 19th year, the …

Read more…