The Union in Revolutionary Times

There may never be a United Ireland. But, equally, there could be one very soon. Historical inevitability is a fallacy best left to ageing Marxist university lecturers. So ubiquitous is forecasting the fate of Northern Ireland through the glacial process of demographic change, we forget that in revolutionary times, previously robust assumptions can crumble in a day. The night the Berlin Wall was accidentally opened, a panel discussion on West German TV discussed the stunning events of the previous hours … Read more

Happy Birthday NHS: What changes are necessary, and how might we make them?

Tonight’s Slugger event is highly focused on health policy, for which we make no apologies. One poor feature of devolution in Northern Ireland is its retreat from policy in favour of populism. However, this is also a wider feature of western democracy. About a year before the last but one UK general election, this animated conversation between Professor John Kay and Steve Richards illustrates the exact same casual (ie, uncosted) retreat taking place elsewhere: In Northern Ireland (as elsewhere), there … Read more

Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy…

As America continues its depressing slow drift into Fascism this quote caught my eye: “In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” Quotation: Captain G. M. Gilbert, the Army psychologist … Read more

In true Bloomsday style, “Samuel Beckett got outrageously drunk…”

If you don’t know by now, it’s tradition!  [We know… – Ed]. Those of a sensitive disposition are duly warned, once again, that James Joyce enjoys the language in all its fecund nuttiness. And another reminder of a brief history of the day, from the Guardian, which includes this great 1924 quote from Joyce on Ulysses – “I have to convince myself that I wrote that book. I used to be able to talk intelligently about it.” Joyce’s last Bloomsday would take place on 16 June 1940, when the author was … Read more

#BillyCaldwell ‘s health deteriorates after Home Office medication seizure

Billy Caldwell, a 12 year old boy from Castlederg suffering from severe epilepsy, was admitted to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital via ambulance this afternoon after suffering a number of seizures. “Billy has had back-to-back seizures today,” Charlotte Caldwell, his mother said. “On his medication, which included the vital but banned THC component, he was seizure-free for more than 300 days.” Charlotte who has fought tirelessly to secure medication for Billy for a number of years has said that doctors back … Read more

Margaret Thatcher And The Road to Brexit…

It was while reading Will Hutton’s and Andrew Adonis’s recently published book Saving Britain that a curious and disturbing thought came into my head, unexpectedly and without invitation; it hasn’t gone away. I’m not a great fan of either author, though they can give useful insights at times. The book has two main parts, firstly, how Brexit came about, and secondly what can be done to save Britain. The thought occurred while reading the first part. Apart from this thought, my views on Brexit … Read more

Individual conscience may make implementing abortion reform as controversial as deciding on the principle

From the Asher’s case to abortion, individual conscience and the prerogatives of devolution greatly complicate reform beyond a straightforward appeal to human rights. Secretary of state Karen Bradley has been attacked for hypocrisy over personally supporting abortion reform while resting on her belief that the Northern Ireland public overwhelmingly support action by a Stormont that is non-sitting and in which there probably isn’t a majority in favour of reform anyway. She knows resting on constitutional propriety gets her off even … Read more

The bizarre story of banknotes in the United Kingdom

Over the past while we’ve been debating a number of things around “special status” for Northern Ireland. Coincident with this debate was the announcement from Ulster Bank of a plan to issue new, verticially-oriented banknotes. I found myself in rare agreement with North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, who suggested on twitter that we could look at a move to Bank of England notes. I noted again this morning that the topic on discussion on the Nolan Show, where the proprietor … Read more

How the Northern Ireland Government is destroying its own cities and towns…

House of Fraser, with the announcement last week that it is to close 31 Stores across the UK, is just the latest in a long line of retailers which have either gone to the wall, or are scaling back their high street retail operations through store closures. Business rates are effectively a trading tax which businesses have to pay to have a high street presence, which in the era of online retail, puts bricks and sticks retailers at a tremendous … Read more

Joint Statement from Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance and Green Party on Human Rights post Brexit

Joint Declaration on Human Rights and Equality 1. We are strongly committed to the promotion, protection and the vindication of the human rights of everyone. We believe these guarantees should apply to all who reside in NI. 2. We firmly believe in the centrality of equality to the shared society we are working together to create. 3. We share a profound concern that “Brexit” will result in further regression on equality and rights. 4. We welcome the guarantee in the … Read more

Why is the Pope not coming North? Are the disappointed faithful too frightened to ask and did the bishops fail to press their case?

The ways of the Vatican are as inscrutable as those of the Chinese Communist party. Indeed they vie with the on-off – on character of the Trump- Kim Jong -un meeting in Singapore. Only a couple of days ago senior Irish Catholics were still holding out hopes that the Pope might pop up to Armagh. Then after his itinerary was announced, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said that final confirmation had come from the Vatican that the pontiff will not … Read more

Professor Rafael Bengoa – too many health services are based around buildings rather than being centred on what people and communities need…

Professor Rafael Bengoa the health reform specialist and the author of the Bengoa Report is back in town today to deliver a lecture at Queens. To mark his visit he has written the following article. I’m delighted to be back in Northern Ireland today, catching up with old friends and finding out at first-hand about the latest developments in health and social care. It is always an inspiration to see for myself the commitment and expertise of staff – and the … Read more

Should Queen’s University break its link with The Presbyterian Union Theological College?

There has been a public backlash against the perceived anti-LGBTQ policies of the Presbyterian Church. Many people have left the church over it, and many more are considering their position. The writer Tony Macaulay and his wife Leslie have left the church after more than 50 years of membership, and decades of inspiring service. Tony was a youth worker for the Presbyterian Church on a violent interface during some of the most dangerous years of the Troubles. Their daughter is … Read more

“The tribunal concludes that it could reasonably infer unlawful political discrimination”

The Irish News reports  that former Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has won a fair employment case against Citizens Advice Armagh and has been awarded £5,500. It arose in relation to an application Mr Flanagan made for the role of manager at the Citizens Advice Armagh. The Irish News states that : “A female candidate was appointed to the role, even though she had failed to meet the initial shortlisting criteria. “Mr Flanagan launched a case against the charity, claiming … Read more