I’m going on a journey…

bridge, park, outside

I’m on a journey, one I’ve never been on before. It’s not exactly a “magical mystery tour”, for I know the destination — the terminus — and while I can guess at some of the intermediate stops, I can’t be certain of them. I imagine I’m in a steam train, a slow train which stops everywhere, though sometimes it might be an express. I don’t know how long this journey will take, though my fare is a single rather than …

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NI Protocol: “Pragmatic and flexible leadership needed from Belfast, Dublin, London and Brussels…”

giraffes, entertainment, discussion

“The beginning [of the new epoch] consists in the recognition of interrelationships. More and more, people will see that there exist no ‘specialised’ questions, to be identified or solved in isolation, since in the end, everything is interconnected, interdependent.” –Wassily Kandinsky With parliaments on both sides of the water in recess we might expect respite from the war of words that has displaced serious consideration of the Northern Irish protocol. However Brexit has eaten every summer since 2016. Just before …

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The legacy of the past can still be felt in today’s political relationships, warns O’Neill

Legacy is being discussed at length at present, following the British government’s proposals to abandon prosecutions and investigations related to Troubles’ events. But there is another toxic legacy – the impact of past events on current political relationships. That aspect of legacy is discussed with Sinn Féin Vice President and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast.  Michelle argues that political leaders must work hard to build trust, to enable the political system here to …

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Ian Marshall joins the UUP…

At the time of the last UUP leadership election, I said the best person for the job was Ian Marshall. There were just two minor issues, he was not a politician or even a member of the UUP. That situation has since been rectified, at least the UUP member part. Delighted to join Doug and the UUP. Time for a union of people, embracing inclusivity, diversity and building relationships across an island and between two islands. Thanks to @SuzyJourno & …

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Christians should support the right to life by get vaccinated…

vaccine, coronavirus, medical

Perhaps it’s me, but I just couldn’t see where Jim Wells was coming from in a recent Belfast Telegraph article on his views of Covid vaccines. Here’s Jim as reported in the Tele which might give some sense of why I was confused. “It is not an anti-vaccine issue it is an ethical issue. I have had a large number of Christians who have said to me: ‘Look we are not opposed to vaccines and are not into these conspiracy …

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Is meritocracy dying?

student, library, books

While on the treadmill a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a podcast delivered by the ‘intelligence squared’ where they interviewed Mark Mardell who has written a new book on the history of “meritocracy.” Originally, like the term ‘suffragette,’ it was a term of derision but since the 1950s the term has grown a following among left and right. Merit is a strange thing, as Mardell points out it can within a single lifetime propel someone into the very opposite, …

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“There is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended.”

geometry, zirkel, setsquare

“The time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.” -Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano here have been proposals for ‘Dealing with the Past.’ None of them appear to work either in securing prosecutions or in allowing the community to future-proof political, social and economic life.   Solutions collide as political intent, perceived victim hierarchy and contentious narratives produce unchallenged trust in their own ideological flatness. Blame and justification are voiced accordingly; accusation and counter-accusation ensue within a deeply …

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What’s in a name #3…

I was delighted to read, from afar, that the DUP MP for East Londonderry Gregory Campbell deigns that the border in Ireland is not “a threat to anyone who feels Irish on this part of the island.”. I’m sorry, but “feels Irish”? Am I naïve in thinking we had moved on in “Our Wee Country” since 1998? Or does this typify a mindset that refuses to accept geographical reality? There is a Big Island called Britain, and there is a …

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What if NI Voted by County? Analysing the 2019 Local Election Results…

It would be interesting to compare current voting patterns with those of 1921 when NI came into being. The exact location of Northern Ireland’s land border – once Thomas Agar-Robartes, MP, let the partition cat out of the Home-Rule bag in 1912 – was always going to be by county, given the Westminster constituency boundaries and census returns at the time. Today’s Westminster, Stormont and local government constituency/electoral area boundaries cross the six county boundaries more often than they did …

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South Korean TV images used to represent each nation in the Olympics…

South Korean TV thought it would be helpful to viewers to have images to represent each nation in the Olympics opening ceremony. Italy was pizza, which to be fair kinda makes sense. But then it got weirder with Ukraine represented by Chernobyl, Haiti was a riot, Marshall Islands, it said “was once a nuclear test site for the US, and is composed of more than 1,200 islands.” El Salvador was introduced with a picture representing Bitcoin. South Korean broadcaster MBC …

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In England crops are left to rot as there are not enough workers to pick them…

I deplore waste, especially food waste. With so much hunger in the world, it is a scandal how much food is wasted in rich countries. They estimate the average UK family throws out £700 worth of food a year. But what of the food that never even reaches the shops? Euronews reports on the crops left to rot as there are not enough workers to pick them. From the article: Fruit and vegetables are being left to rot in England …

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It’s a rat trap and we’ve been caught…

This 4-minute video by animator Steve Cutts is a very good critique of where we find ourselves in our modern capitalist society. I have worked for myself my whole life and benefited from the system but it does not stop me from seeing the flaws in our model of continuous consumption and unrestrained growth. Chasing the chimera of happiness with every new purchase or pill or drink swallowed. Not sure if Steve was thinking about the Boomtown Rats song when …

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Slugger event at John Hewitt Summer School: What’s good for the economy, good for the environment and good for people?

Slugger O’Toole returns to the John Hewitt International Summer School in Armagh next Wednesday evening (28 July at 7pm) with a panel discussion looking at the triangle between economy, environment and people. Is Northern Ireland keeping those three aspects in balance? Are we destroying people and the planet in the name of prosperity? Can we ensure that wellbeing, sustainability and justice benefit everyone? I’ll be joined by Steven Agnew, Dawn Purvis and Joanne Stuart to mull over what’s good for …

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The Way Forward: Boris Johnson having his cake and eating it too?

Earlier this week, the UK Government released its ‘Command Paper’ entitled “Northern Ireland Protocol: The way forward”. One can almost imagine the EU negotiators exhaling an exasperated sigh, rubbing their temples, and remarking: “Really? They’re opening this can of worms again?” as the authors impress upon them (and us) the need for more “urgent talks” to “find a new balance for the Protocol”. In his opening remarks, Boris Johnson laments that “[t]he impact of the Protocol has been profound economically, …

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How Ireland Voted 2020: Certainly the end of an era, but the beginning of what?

I must confess, through a combination of not really having understood what happened in February 2020 and the long period of government formation and the onset of Covid I was thoroughly discouraged from delving into the south’s last election. Now, I have my copy of How Ireland Voted 2020. It’s a regular publication edited in previous years by Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh now joined by UCC academic Theresa Reidy. The biggest talking point in the whole book is Sinn …

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More truth and honesty needed in government, and in dealing with legacy, says Colum Eastwood

Truth and honesty must be at the heart of how we deal with the legacy of the past and in how politicians in Northern Ireland govern today, says Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP and MP for the Foyle constituency. He was speaking in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast and is the third political leader to be interviewed in the series, discussing how to make progress in Northern Ireland.  Victims have been badly treated, stresses Colum, and they …

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“He did not read the protocol, he has not read the bill, he does not know his stuff”…

As Labour leader, Ed Miliband’s awkward geekiness never found favour with the English voters but he has grown in stature over the years. His Reasons to be cheerful podcast is an entertaining and informative listen. In his day job role as MP and shadow Minister, he gave Boris quite the evisceration over his handling of NI Protocol. It makes for an entertaining watch. @Ed_Miliband Destroying @BorisJohnson with ease. ?‍☠️pic.twitter.com/1VVzyPlyTN — The Churchill Project (@WinstonCProject) July 21, 2021 But all this …

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American Big Pharma and the US opioid epidemic…

With such focus on Covid19, the US opioid pandemic has largely been ignored in the UK yet continues to destroy lives, devastate families and fracture communities and it worsened rather than lessened as Covid19 ravaged the US. The US Centre for Disease Control published provisional data recently showing that 2020 was a record year for drug overdose deaths with 93,331, up 29% from a year earlier. 500,000 deaths between 1999 and 2019 need to be explained so cities, states, counties …

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Water rates or hosepipe ban: why NI Water funding model needs to change…

I was on Nolan to discuss a hosepipe ban that’s imminent. In England Severn Trent has asked people to conserve water, but there’s no ban. Water services in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic have been investing massively in their systems. That’s not only brought leaks down within the system but allows them to keep up with ever rising demand as populations grow across these islands and demands shift up and down with the seasons. Meanwhile NI Water (as it …

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Neurotypical Nonsense: A Beginner’s Guide

It all started with a trip to the funfair, complete with its overload of noise, lights and crashing machinery, and a casual remark from my bemused oldest: “what is this neurotypical nonsense?” And so, the Big List of Neurotypical Nonsense was born. And we’re going to share some of it here. Neurotypical nonsense is, according to my two proudly Autism spectrum teens, anything so ludicrously head-wrecking it could never have been invented by an Autistic person*. Because if it had …

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