“…a failure of empathy, of understanding, of insight into the lives of other people”

Empathy has been a bit of a theme for me this week. Personally I’ve been trying to use it in the positive, expansive bridge-building aspect, but it is not as though empathy does not already exist in Northern Ireland. Within the present two tribe culture system, of course it exists. It is capable of tuning us into collaboration on anger, hatred and fear as well as having the capacity to help us to build a larger, connected and inclusive sense … Read more

I believe so strongly that we have a massive case to be heard. This is about a way of life. We cannot go back to any form of hard border.

I’m a 50 year old Derry Girl, teacher of Drama and English in a local all girls’ grammar school and mother of two teenage daughters. I’ve lived in Derry all my life. My parents instilled in us a deep love of Donegal, its wild and often soft scenery, its simplicity and the gentle, unassuming people. Every Sunday we made the pilgrimage to Bridgend and then on to Rathmullan for the Football Special; Ballyliffin for the 70s delight of Chicken Maryland … Read more

“Touting” and the ethics of gathering information…

A number of years ago the Andersonstown News carried on a front page headline the phrase: “Ten Pound Touts.”  “Ten Pounds Touts” was a reference to what was perceived at the time (and indeed is still perceived by some people) as the practice by the RUC/PSNI of recruiting as informers (touts) young people involved in car crime, anti-social behaviour, or low level crime. These youths were/are given small amounts of money for doing this – allegedly as little as a … Read more

The long and winding road to Irish unity

“Of its nature this is a long-term policy, requiring patience, understanding and forbearance and resolute resistance to emotionalism and opportunism. It is not the less patriotic for that” TK Whitaker, Note on North-South Border Policy, 11 November 1968 There is no denying that the idea of a United Ireland has more momentum now than ever before. Out of the Brexit chaos, and the Stormont vacuum, it tempting to ask: is the time for patience is coming to an end? And … Read more

Bernadette McAliskey guest speaker at The Mccluskey Civil Rights Summer School this saturday….

The theme of this years summer school is “50 Years On – The Civil Rights Challenges in Ireland Today – Tackling Poverty, Sectarianism, Racism and Inequality”. Here is the agenda 10am Welcome by Chair Professor Paul Arthur 10.30am Tribute to Dr Conn and Patricia McCluskey by civil rights activist Michael McLoughlin Reflections on civil rights and honouring the role of Con and Patricia McCluskey and the Campaign for Social justice 11am Keynote address by Les Allamby Chair of Human Rights … Read more

Time for Ireland to re-embrace Wellington as a great Irishman?

There’s still a few Summer Schools to go before the political season returns in the south (traditionally after the National Ploughing Championships, but there are few performance like this one from Eoghan Harris in Kilkenny at the weekend… Eoghan Harris: Full Kilkenny Festival Talk from Eoghan Harris on Vimeo. He looks at Wellington and Daniel O’Connell and their very different roles in the passage of the Catholic Relief Act 1829) and makes the case that Wellington should take his place … Read more

Could the skills system hold the answer to Northern Ireland’s productivity problem?

In Northern Ireland we’re well-used to hearing bad economic news. What sits underneath much of this comes down to productivity – the value of what we produce by every hour of work. In fact, productivity here is almost a fifth lower than the UK average, and whilst the UK’s productivity rates are lower than some of our key competitors, which in itself is a significant structural problem, in Northern Ireland we have some of the very worst productivity rates in … Read more

Less talking over the heads of Unionism, more recognising the political game has changed in Northern Ireland

I read with interest Micks piece earlier today on Unionist experiences and perspectives in the recent border poll debate and felt the need to offer a different view. When one of my political heroes, then Taoiseach Sean Lemass addressed the Oxford Union in late 1959 on the topic of Irish Unity he said his concern wasn’t about dwelling on the past, but rather it was about looking to the future. That is something that has always motivated me in this … Read more

Where are the safe spaces for our young trans and non-binary people?

Brian Smyth (Green Party rep. for Lisnasharragh) International Youth Day was Sunday 12 August and the theme this year is, “Safe spaces for youth”. There seems to be an International Day for everything, but as a Youth Worker, I believe it’s important to use these opportunities to tune into the issues that affect young people growing up, particularly those disadvantaged by poverty and inequality. The notion of safe spaces got me thinking about my safe spaces growing up. It made … Read more

Talking over the heads of unionists has been tried and found wanting for nearly a hundred years…

Speculating about a border poll when no one is attending to business in the here and now is a bit like eating your packed lunch at 9.30. It leaves you nothing to eat at lunchtime. It may be helpful for a talented (and in my experience, diligent) economist like Paul Gosling to point out that with the right deal Northern Ireland could be economically better off in a united Ireland. But it is quite another thing to create the conditions where … Read more

External Association and the Brexit Dilemma

The Brexit negotiations have been plagued with political point scoring and little ‘real’ progress since the onset. There is a whirlwind of media noise surrounding any development when in reality the only concrete thing to emerge recently is the Chequers deal. This serves to embed the perception that Brexit is an intractable enigma, a foreign and absurd entity the likes of which we have not seen before. In reality, this kind of complex negotiation that fundamentally seeks to secure bi-lateral … Read more

Does recall purdah benefit Ian Paisley? Will it end up in court?

Not only are there complaints that  three centres are inadequate  to cover the whole of rural North Antrim for recalling Ian Paisley and forcing a by election, but there are complaints about the purdah  on comment it enforces too. This twitter dialogue from two leading commentators Michael Crick of Channel 4 News and Anthony Wells of YouGov covers the point.       The 2015 Recall of MPs Act says that during the 30-day period NOBODY – journalists or anyone – … Read more

Developing respect in our politics: Leaders’ debate @FeileBelfast

Developing respect in our politics: Leaders’ debate @FeileBelfast
by Allan LEONARD
8 August 2018

The high level of respect displayed by the audience and speakers at St Mary’s University College for a leaders’ debate organised by Féile Belfast belied that of the current political situation in Northern Ireland.

Read moreDeveloping respect in our politics: Leaders’ debate @FeileBelfast

Institutional discrimination is dead. Identity politics has become an entertainment

Even the most inventive of columnists run out of material in the dog days of August.  So Alex Kane treats us to a little rant in the Irish News. The constitutional question remains at the heart of all political debate here; yet that question is louder and more pressing than it has been in my lifetime. This point was always coming, of course. As long as there were nationalist choices for one community and unionist choices for the other the question … Read more

Is a second referendum feasible? A dispassionate view from academics

The Constitution Unit of University College London headed up by Meg Russell has posed seven questions about a possible second referendum on Brexit in a blog post. Last month the Unit published the report of the Independent Commission on Referendums which can be read here.    The summary… Would it be possible to hold a referendum in the time available? Isextending Article 50 feasible? How could a referendum be triggered? What might the options be? What form should the question … Read more

Why do the DUP persist in ignoring the interests of their own supporters?

For decades, Barry White was a great part of the voice of the Belfast Telegraph, sometimes in his own name, as often in anonymous editorials. He was one of a trio ofsenior journalists, Roy Lilley, Ed Curran and himself who steered a difficult editorial path for the paper from 1970 arguing for the centre ground mainly from the standpoint of liberal unionism.   The voice was  that of reasonableness, by definition so often ahead of the real thing, although Barry wrote … Read more

Carnegie UK Trust continues its founder’s mission of wellbeing

This Saturday marks the 99th anniversary of the death of Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-born philanthropist whose legacy and mission of improving ‘the wellbeing of the people of Great Britain and Ireland’ continue to this day through the work of the Carnegie UK Trust. The Trust’s latest initiative aimed at furthering Carnegie’s goals was announced in June, with the naming of the three local authorities set to participate in the Embedding Wellbeing in Northern Ireland project. The Community Planning Partnerships working … Read more

Clann na Poblachta: A Cautionary Tale for Smaller Parties

By Paul McIlvenny The silly season has begun. As the parliamentary recess began and TDs returned to their constituencies to touch base and escape the parliamentary heat for the heat of summer, the political commentariat were predictably consumed by pre-election claim and counter-claim. As the summer draws to a close, political fever around the October Budget will become pandemic, with new temperatures reached as the budget signals the end of the current Confidence&Supply agreement that holds Fine Gael and their Independent … Read more

Watch back the Leaders Debate from Feile and Phobail. 

Some thoughts In a 90 minute debate there was a very interesting dialogue between the representatives of the parties. It was on the whole, a respectful exchange of views. Simon Hamilton and Robin Swann deserve credit for how they approached this debate. They handled an audience that was far from being on their side well and I think it beneficial having that Unionist voice on the panel to remind all of us that not everyone thinks the same way on … 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