27 school shootings so far this year in America…

A North Texas teacher attending the March for Our Lives sister rally in Denton, Texas on March 24th, 2018.

The shooting in Texas of 19 school kids and 2 adults is pretty depressing, even more so when you find out it is actually the 27th school shooting this year alone, and the 200th mass shooting. And the solution? How about arming the teachers? Actual politicians are proposing this. Other suggestions include hiring ex-military to protect schools. Because we all know the solution to gun crime is more guns… Asked on Newsmax about his solution for school shootings, Texas AG …

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Irish Neutrality and military alliances…

nato, flag, compass rose

The Irish Times recently published my letter on Neutrality and military alliances. In this post, I reprint the letter as well as expand on the topic. A chara, – It has often been noted that generals tend to fight the battles of today with the weapons and strategies of the last war. Russia may be finding this out to its cost in Ukraine. Critics of Ireland’s policy of neutrality and relative lack of military capability tend to call for us to …

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The UK government must do better than this wretched legacy bill. But an amnesty is still inevitable

Last week the Bishop of Derry dedicated a garden to the memory of a 15 year old Derry boy Manus Deery, shot dead by the British Army in the Bogside on the 50th anniversary of his death. As the Derry Now website reported: Manus had just started working after leaving St Joseph’s Secondary School and was eating a bag of chips and carrying a comic in his back pocket which he had bought with his first wage packet… At the …

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Northern Irish population is growing and on average we’re getting older…

word cloud, census, population

Today is the first day of releases from last year’s census, and the first thing to say is that the growth pattern from 2011 remains broadly in line for 2021, which is an increase of about 100k… The second thing is that our baby boom remains in line with UK rather than Irish norms (which didn’t really have one)… You can see how the younger cohort is shrinking as a proportion of the wider population and the older cohort rises …

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On the Protocol we need to put lesser problems into the background for ultimate solution at a later date…

hand, sea, water

The world is in the most dangerous state it has been in since the Second World War. Many lives and livelihoods of ordinary people have been lost in the Ukraine due to naked aggression and democracies and democratic values are under severe threat all over the world. In times like these the rallying cry for all those across the world who treasure hard won democratic rights and values has to be the time honoured one of “All HANDS ON DECK”. …

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The frustration of GPs leaving us hanging on the telephone…

pavement, association, mobile

Philip O’Neill is a retired Civil Servant from Belfast. I am a big supporter of our doctors, nurses and health care staff and I am very aware of them having to make do with fewer and fewer resources. However, I was not fully aware of the implications of recent decisions on phone preferences rather than face to face consultations. This did not hit home until I had cause to call my local surgery. I had an ongoing issue for which …

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Exposing the darkness at the heart of Irish Society…

Hope

I joined the staff of the now-closed Offaly Express in 1988 but did not begin to cover law courts in earnest until 1995, following the retirement of the late Eddie Rogers. That period coincided approximately with the first cases relating to child sexual abuse. From 1994 onwards, local and national media found themselves having to cover such cases as they began to come to light to a greater degree. That year saw the revelations of the Brendan Smyth saga, which …

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Choyaa: Unionism and the Unity Debates…

brown concrete bridge besides green plants during daytime

Irish Unity forums are not a new phenomenon, they have existed for many years but in recent times calls for Unionists to attend these events have started to amplify. These calls were made again this week at an “Ireland’s Future” future event held at Westminster; however, the calls came from an unusual source. Stephen Farry from the Alliance party used his platform at the event to outline how his party would help “shape the conversation” and warned Unionists that they …

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Open Sunday – discuss what you like…

open sunday sign, signage, open

The idea for Open Sunday is to let you discuss what you like. News events we have missed, an interesting article you have read, recommendations for a good podcast, book or tv show. Just two rules. Keep it civil and no man/woman playing.

Labor Party seizes power in Australia…

sydney opera house near body of water during daytime

From the BBC: Australia has elected its first Labor government in almost a decade and Anthony Albanese as prime minister, ousting Scott Morrison’s coalition. Mr Albanese told jubilant supporters that Australians had “voted for change”. However it is still unclear whether he can secure a majority. The centre-left leader vowed to bring people together, invest in social services and “end the climate wars”. In perhaps the election’s greatest twist, support also surged for Greens and independent candidates running on climate …

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An Dream Dearg and the continued power of activism

by Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin from An Dream Dearg Who would have predicated, when the draft programme for Government was published by the Executive in October 2016, what the following years would bring? For Irish language activists, the autumn of 2016 signalled a significant low point: no reference to the St Andrews commitment to introduce an Irish language act, a DUP Education Minister following through on pre-election commitments to ‘end the preferential treatment of Irish-medium education’ and open derision of …

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What’s with the Accent?

Twins

Having lived in England for several years if I had a pound for every time someone on hearing my accent asked me “what part of Scotland are you from?” I’d certainly have a few extra quid in the bank. Now I’d understand this if I spoke with a strong north Antrim accent which clearly has a strong Scottish influence due to both geographical proximity and centuries (if not millennia) of inter-mingling – but I don’t. I then usually try to …

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Solution to protocol stand off could be an extension of grace periods and experimentation before local consent in 2024…

laptop, office, hand

One of many, Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD, has talked of a ‘landing zone.’ Fine Gael Senator Emer Currie has referred to there being a solution if we can find one, or words to that effect. Hardly a confidence builder? In Northern Ireland, recently elected MLAs, reflecting the intensity of politics in a small place, are digging themselves deeper into the rutted terrain of blame, counter blame and limited concession on ideological preferences. Arguing themselves into institutionalised confrontation. Reports from London and …

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Calls for clarity on border poll criteria…

green grass near the gray road

From the Irish News: The public should be given clarity on the criteria for calling a poll on Irish unification, Michelle O’Neill has said. The Sinn Féin vice president said there was a need to fill in the “grey” area of the Good Friday Agreement on the circumstances for holding a referendum on constitutional change. Her comments come after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also called for clarity on the mechanism for calling a poll. Under the terms of the 1998 Good …

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Come back, Ireland needs her sons!

brown building

My favourite family story concerns my uncle Frank. In the 1960s Frank swapped grey Belfast for life in sunshine-filled Jersey in the Channel Islands. At the time Jersey was a popular tourist destination and as a good looking single guy it would be fair to say he had a good time courting young ladies who came to the island looking for a holiday romance. In the family album, we have photos of him looking tanned and relaxed, invariably accompanied by …

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Bypass Stormont and empower Councils to help those most in need…

https://breakyourboundaries.tv/seeking-human-kindness-print - Prints Available - 25 % proceeds goes to supporting homelessness - I met Michael in a Boston subway station. I told him I liked his sign. “What matters is what it means to you,” he told me.I asked what it meant to him. “Doing a deed or expressing kindness to another person without expecting anything in return,” Michael said.I love approaching strangers wherever I go. Listening and talking to them teaches you about people and how similar we all are to one another. Just like Michael, we’re all seeking human kindness.

Despite Liz Truss’s announcement that the UK government will introduce a new bill to change the post-Brexit trade deal for Northern Ireland, there is absolutely no certainty about how long the current disruption and chaos at Stormont will last. As our devolved government lurches from one crisis to the next there is a necessity to reform the Assembly but there is also a need to keep the wheels on the track and deliver for those most in need. On Monday …

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The Last Hurrah

And so this is it. One last outing for ‘Derry Girls’… and what a final outing! Lisa McGee set her final episode of the sitcom one year on from the events of the previous night’s heartwrenching episode. It began with a montage of images from previous episodes, playing to the sound of the bells of the Angelus. Donna Traynor – who else? – was on TV screens asking the question on every ‘Derry Girls’ fan’s lips: “Could this be the …

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It’s still worth taking a punt on Boris. This time it’s in his own interest to compromise with the EU

In my last post, I was a lonely outlier when I argued that we had nothing to lose by giving Boris Johnson a chance to see what he can deliver.  I did so in full knowledge of his record and reputation.  I am unrepentant. At least equally irritating as Boris is the solipsism that assumes Northern Ireland is centre of world attention and reduces outsiders like the prime minister to bit players  in what Churchill called “the fearful integrity” of …

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Unionism Continuing to Slide: the 2022 Assembly Election and Longer Electoral Trends…

A serene gradient from red to smoky blue-gray seems to mask a chaotic scene underneath, expressing a wide range of emotion. Looking like a NASA closeup of Jupiter, this image reveals sediment in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.

After the 1997 Westminster election, unionists held 13/18 Westminster MPs, 61/110 1996 Forum seats, and were about 10% ahead of nationalist bloc votes. Now they have 8/18 Westminster seats, 37/90 Assembly seats and were about 0.5% ahead of the nationalist bloc vote in the 2022 Assembly election. Unionism has become a minority in all election types and looks close to losing its vote-plurality status. There are always variations of turnout and tactical voting depending on the type and significance of …

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