The spicules of Sol

Another wondrous view of our own modest star from the Solar Dynamics Observatory [SDO].  Here’s what the SDO channel says Spicules pop up from the Sun constantly. These dynamics jets are smaller features of the Sun that are commonly ignored. However, with the detailed close-up that SDO can provide, we can see these much more clearly than ever before. Over a few hours observation of the northern pole area of the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light (Aug. 3, 2010), we can … Read more

Minister approves ‘chicken litter’ generator without consultation…

One of the legacies of having no local democracy with any power is that our politicians have little skill at handling or managing trade-offs… Probably the most obvious example of that is the proposed legislation on parades… Which effectively takes an extreme measure which has been adopted for managing Orange parades through nationalist areas, and scaling it up… The truth is government local and Stormont will have a great deal more mundane issues to deal with once the smog of war has … Read more

NI Water: “How did PwC get it so wrong?”

On Friday, Diana Rusk had an interesting take on the NI Water issue. She highlights a memo from last April in which the Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, responds to a request for an explanation for why Price-Waterhouse Coopers awarded Northern Ireland Water exemplar status on its procurement practice, when the same organisation has just sacked its Board for the same issue. The questions sharpen somewhat when you take into account that PwC have a number of those £28 million worth … Read more

Launching the ‘Political Innovation’ project

When bloggers meet, I often find that old allegiances (be they left right, or Unionist/Republican) often dissolve into a different political spilt. Those of us who imagine that we ‘get’ the read-write web against the political colleagues that we have who, we believe, fail to foresee the possibilities or the threats. I’ve occasionally witnessed left-right-and-centrist bloggers in (non) violent agreement with each other – not about political direction, but about what is possible in harnessing the power of the web. … Read more

Belfast City Airport waves goodbye to Ryanair … for now?

Belfast City Airport frontage

Belfast City Airport will be hoping for better luck in September. Having run a couple of Community Information Days last week that were advertised to 21,000 local homes but only ended up attracting 42 people into the airport terminal to learn more about the airport’s activities and plans for the runway extension, Ryanair broke bad news this morning. Ryanair don’t do subtle gestures, and in the case of the city airport they’re pulling their aircraft off the local tarmac from … Read more

The cross-border health report they didn’t want you to see

As a former journalist, I do relish getting hold of a government report that makes eminently sensible recommendations but which politicians for some obscure reason do not want the public to see. So I was delighted when earlier this month a copy of the North-South Feasibility Study compiled by the Irish Department of Health and Children and the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety came across my desk. This was the report, completed 18 months ago, … Read more

Who owns the roads in Ballymena?

We often hear from supporters of the  loyalist Marching Orders that those opposed to parades don’t ‘own the road.’ A 58-year old woman was assaulted during a Black Institution parade in Ballymena at the weekend. Her ‘crime’ was to cross the road during a gap in the parade, which allegedly prompted marchers to assault her. During the assault, the 5ft 1 lady was punched in the face and neck and had her fingers dislocated. No doubt those responsible will be swiftly brought to … Read more

Let’s be careful out there!

Here’s a fun video to consider, via  It shows the map of the solar system updating from 1980 to present as more asteroids are discovered.   As Spaceweather notes Warning: Feelings of claustrophobia have been reported among some viewers. It’s crowded out there! New discoveries appear in white.  Final colour indicates how close the asteroid comes to the inner solar system – Earth crossers in red, Earth approachers (perihelion less than 1.3AU) in yellow, and all others in green.  Orbital elements from database … Read more

A memoir of Polish Solidarity thirty years ago

Thirty years ago, I had the great good luck to witness the signing of the Gdansk Agreement that tolled the first death knells for Communism in Europe. Here it is authoritatively recalled by the doyen of commentators on the subject, Neal Ascherson.  Standing in front of the gates of the Lenin shipyard in  the port of Gdansk  a few weeks previously, I was rash enough to make that very prediction on camera. The editors back home cut it out – … Read more

Thy Kingdom Come

The Mourne County is rejoicing following a thrilling semi-final encounter with Kildare which has returned the county’s footballers to the All-Ireland Football Final for the first time since their twin triumphs in the early90s. In truly dramatic style, Down survived a last second 13-yard free which was heroically pushed onto the crossbar by the outstretched fingertips of a brace of Down players, heralding the sound of the whistle amidst scenes of joy for the Black and Red hordes in Croker. Final … Read more

“The alliance is dysfunctional…”

Not, for once, a reference to the alliance that operates mediates our semi-detached polit-bureau – although some similarities may be apparent.  This time it’s South Africa, where the BBC reports on the threatened escalation of strike action by Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi. Some one million civil servants are already on strike but Cosatu’s total affiliated membership is double that. Mr Vavi said work would also halt in the key mining and manufacturing industries, while unions … Read more

‘Dead men don’t talk back’

After the north of Ireland Police Ombudsman’s report into how the British state dealt with the Claudy bombings, the susequent furore/media focus has been on Father James Chesney and his later move to a parish in Donegal. This has been treated as acceptance, admission or proof of his involvement in events of that day. Nothing of the sort was shown in the report. This small truth, his moving parishes, has become an absolute demonstration for many of his involvement in … Read more

The PUP: soon to be the Mary Celeste?

Yet another member has left the PUP apparently over the murder, by the clearly not on ceasefire UVF, of Bobby Moffett. The latest to leave is former deputy leader and policing board member David Rose; he follows former prisoner Tommy Sandford. Apparently Rose told the Belfast Telegraph that the latest murder had “led to a lot of soul searching.” Why the preceding 28 murders since the supposed UVF ceasefire did not lead to this soul searching, or if they did … Read more

Claudy: forgotten no longer

When the Claudy Report by the Police Ombudsman was unveiled last week it looked very much as if it would be a one or at most a two day wonder. This was one of the forgotten atrocities of the troubles, like so many others. There seemed little in the way of an organised victims’ group and few politicians apart from the local UUP councillor and Gregory Campbell pushing the issue: Campbell is an extremely busy man and Mary Hamilton is … Read more

The abuse crisis is no excuse for anti-Catholic bigotry

The Scottish composer James MacMillan has composed a congregational Mass for the Blessed John Henry Newman which is to be featured at the venues of  the Pope’s forthcoming visit to Great Britain. No surprise there.  But what’s novel I think,  is that MacMillan, unusually for a composer, is a bold controversialist and an unorthodox defender of British Catholicism who has started his own blog to comment on his own press interviews.  MacMillan first slammed sectarianism as “Scotland’s Shame” 11 years … Read more

“That is if this place ever has a process of truth and reconciliation.”

In the Belfast Telegraph Brian Rowan picks up on NI Police Ombudsman Al Hutchison’s comments following the publication of the Claudy report.  Al Hutchison was, let’s not forget, repeating himself…  From the Belfast Telegraph article The Ombudsman has more than a hundred historical cases sitting on his desk — work he estimates will take fifty years to complete. And if this is left in his office and left with the Historical Enquiries Team, then the reality is that many people will never have their … Read more

Photograph of the Day – Zadoc Nava

The exhibition comprises photographs from a number of visits to Iran, in particular the capital Tehran and offers an insight into life in Iran. It’s an interesting exhibition and highlights tensions between the old and the new. Speaking with Zadoc he told me that whilst there was no real problem taking photographs(as ever common sense needs to be applied when shooting on the street) he did get arrested once. I think there is a resonance between the political and religious … Read more

Beyond the easy wins of politician’s expenses…

Noel Whelan has a useful take on the expenses scandals which have rocked the Oireachtas over the last  few years, but says that the selective investigation of some TDs (though he makes a reasonable exception for Ivor Callely), is open to the suggestion that it is being done now for political reasons… And he notes that it is the inappropriate nature of the previous system rather than any egregious wrongdoing that will mark the card of the victim. He looks … Read more