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

Stuck in the Past – difficult choices to be made #feile18

Three years ago, the same hall was venue to a conversation between the then deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the PSNI Chief Constable, again chaired by Brian Rowan. That night, the atmosphere was electric. This afternoon, the conversation seemed less extraordinary, certainly less unexpected. Unfortunately, the political stalemate has become as normal yet unacceptable as the stretched patience of victims and survivors who seek truth and information about incidents during the Troubles.

RTE’s celebration of John Hume feels like nostalgia for a time that has gone

RTE have just screened a documentary In the Name of Peace; John Hume in America by Maurice Fitzpatrick which the film maker has kindly drawn to my attention. Being in London I cannot access it yet nor have I read his accompanying book. But from the YouTube trail, this is a major celebration of John Hume’s life and work. Anybody who was anybody is in it, led by Clinton and Blair, although Jimmy Carter was not quite so dazzled.  As … Read more

Free conference at Queen’s University Belfast. Global Conflict: The Human Impact – 23-24 August 2018…

The conference, convened by Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Chicago, will be addressed by a range of distinguished speakers who will share their expertise on the Northern Ireland peace process, the peace process in Colombia, and the international refugee crisis, among other themes. Confirmed speakers include United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi; former US Senator George J. Mitchell; former US Assistant Secretary of State Anne C. Richard; Dominic MacSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide; and James Robinson, Reverend … Read more

Mike Nesbitt “You cannot watch that Parade and not be moved to join the groundswell for a new, modern, pluralist, inclusive Northern Ireland”

Former UUP Leader, Mike Nesbitt was at the Belfast Pride march on Saturday and we asked him for some thoughts on the parade. What struck me about Pride 2018 was its air of relaxed confidence. It’s a while since I have observed a Belfast Pride Parade in any great depth and the change is remarkable. Back in the early days, it seemed to me many taking part felt a need to force themselves and their issues on the agenda with … Read more

Did Peter Robinson blunder into the border poll debate too early?

Coming late to the Peter Robinson speech at Glenties and its aftermath, I’m struck by two elements of it, one of which has been hardly picked up. In the text I was offered, the discussion of a border poll which overshadowed the rest of it didn’t appear at all. Tommie Gorman of RTE has explained. I chaired the Friday evening session (27 July) in the Glenties Highlands Hotel where Peter Robinson was the guest speaker. The references to a united Ireland … Read more

Mike Nesbitt “Rather than Carson’s dream of a government for all, we are hurtling into the record books for the length of time we have had no government for anyone”

Mike Nesbitt has released a response to Peter Robinson’s comments on a border poll; “A couple of months ago, Peter Robinson said he was pulling the pin out of the grenade – a curious analogy for a man making his inaugural speech as an Honorary Professor of Peace Studies. He was referring to the manner in which a Border Poll might be called and conducted, an issue he returned to in great detail last week. It is time to explore … Read more