Irish Ship to Gaza sabotaged

The Irish Ship to Gaza campaign have reported sabotage to their vessel, MV Saoirse, which they claim was carried out by Israeli agents. The MV Saoirse was to participate in another Free Gaza flotilla aimed at breaking through the Israeli blockade to bring aid to the Gaza region. Al Jazeera are reporting this as the second incidence of sabotage this year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not softening significantly from last year’s line, judging by recent comments reported by Ha’aretz (which also has concerns about the … Read more

David Dunseith RIP

David Dunseith

Through some of the darkest days of the NI troubles and in the absence of a local political assembly, [Talkback] provided a forum for debate where no other existed. BBC News online reports the sad news that David Dunseith has died. With a career spanning television and radio, UTV and BBC, the Sony award-winning journalist and presenter was perhaps most associated with presenting the lunch Talkback programme on Radio Ulster, before latterly moving to host Sunday’s Seven Days. Alan Meban … Read more

Judge Smithwick: “I think this was singularly ill-advised.”

I had mentioned the apparent disagreement between the chair of the Smithwick Tribunal, Judge Smithwick, and the Irish Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, over the latter’s proposed ‘deadline’, of 30 November, for the Tribunal’s final report. And in correspondence from the time, just released to the Oireachtas along with the Tribunal’s interim report [pdf file], Judge Smithwick made clear the extent of his disagreement. Judge Smithwick wrote to the Minister accusing him of a “wholly inappropriate” attempt to “interfere with the independence” of the inquiry. He … Read more

Bringing schools together in Ireland through ICT

Regular readers of this column know that I greatly admire those people I call the ‘unsung heroes’ of North-South cooperation as part of the peace process in Ireland. These are the people, most of them unknown outside their immediate area of activity, who do this kind of work because, in the words of the social researcher Brian Harvey, ‘they have a vision of and passion for cross-border work and cross-border development and are prepared to commit considerable time and energy … Read more

Unregistered interests: ca. 50% of MLAs don’t declare £150 payments from Lobbyist Company?

There are lots of interesting little details in the Assembly Register of Member’s Interests. Two MLAs being paid a small sum for filling in surveys isn’t one of them: Miscellaneous Interests Jim Wells and Paul Givan Stratagem Northern Ireland: a survey company which occasionally surveys the views of MLAs on a wide range of issues. A fee of £50.00 is payable for each survey completed. You can find the results of numerous Stratagem surveys of MLAs online but details of … Read more

QUB ICOT 2011 – Thinking about Reconciliation and Change

At a bit of last minute, I filled in for a colleague to speak at a roundtable discussion at the 15th International Conference on Thinking, held at Queen’s University of Belfast. The roundtable was chaired by Evanthia Lyons (QUB), and fellow discussants were Mari Fitzduff (Brandeis University) and Karen Trew (QUB). There was a separate but interrelated theme for each of the five days of the conference; for Thursday, 23rd June, the theme was “education and democracy”, and included presentations … Read more

Most distant “angry monster” brightest in early Universe

[Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser] The BBC reports on the discovery of the most distant quasar yet seen, ULAS J1120+0641.  An “angry monster” 12.9 billion light-years away – a mere 770 million years after the Big Bang.  Before the process of re-ionization was completed.  As the BBC report notes The light from ULAS J1120+0641 displays the characteristic signature of neutral gas, indicating that, at 770 million years after the Big Bang, the process of re-ionization had some way to go before the process was … Read more

The extraordinarily small gene pool for NI Civil Service reviews

Here’s an interesting snippet. It’s an Assembly Question from Patsy McGlone to Tom Elliott regarding “the independent board of inquiry that was convened to consider the disciplinary charges” against Paul Priestly. It’s interesting for a number of reasons: To ask the First Minister and deputy First Minister, in relation to the independent board of inquiry that was convened to consider the disciplinary charges against a senior civil servant, to detail (i) the terms of reference; (ii) the members on the … Read more

“Census figures will have planners going back to the drawing board”

That’s George Lee on RTE just now. What he’s pointing at is the fact there are 100k more people in the Republic than the CSO previously thought. He also reports that plans to scrap 20 seats from the Dail are somewhat screwed because the new figures will mean they can only be cut by 13. More general info on the new results (in 2011, the same year the survey was taken) from the Irish Times… The results show Laois had … Read more

“Sinn Féin are increasingly looking acceptable and palatable”

Nice piece of analysis from Cormac O’Cuilan at politico.ie on Sinn Fein’s progress in the southern polity: In the soup that is the 31st Dáil; Sinn Féin are increasingly looking acceptable and palatable. Side by side with Fianna Fáil and the Independents, their credibility as opposition (and future government) parliamentarians, is on the rise. As an organised, coherent and legitimate voice of protest in the face of the economic turmoil they threaten the well that both Fianna Fáil and Labour … Read more

POTD – Reading the obits

I had to take this particularly when i saw that the man was reading the death notices. Moochin PhotomanPhotographer and visual artist based in Belfast. I have facilitated community based workshops with groups as diverse as visually impaired individuals in Dungannn, Travellers across Northern Ireland, Young Offenders and many community groups across Belfast. My work has exhibited extensively here in Northern Ireland in group and individual shows and has been shown in North America and i had my first solo … Read more

Voyager: “It’s bubbly out there.”

The Guardian’s GrrlScientist picked up on the 30-something Voyager probes’ latest scientific discovery on humanity’s farthest journey.  New view of the heliosheath. Red and blue spirals are the gracefully curving magnetic field lines of orthodox models. New data from Voyager add a magnetic froth to the mix. Image: NASA Here’s the YouTube version of the ScienceatNasa video posted at the Guardian. And if that explanation was a little too pink and fluffy for you, try this different version of the same … Read more

London Letter: Do we have the wrong idea about teaching and elitism in Northern Ireland?

Cool isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think of an English public school headmaster, but Anthony Seldon, head of Wellington, and Tony Little, head of Eton, are teetering dangerously close to it being an accurate description.

The old stereotype only goes as far as their plummy voices, or if we’re being pernickety, then Little’s perfectly coiffed moustache deserves a mention.

As an Irish woman from a modest background, I found myself feeling both shocked and surprised at a great deal during The Sunday Times Festival of Education, which was held at the cinematically beautiful Wellington College where each term costs up to almost £10,000.

Read moreLondon Letter: Do we have the wrong idea about teaching and elitism in Northern Ireland?

Catherine Wylie is a reporter at the Press Association in London.

Euro crisis: “gaining time is the least bad outcome, both for Greece and Europe as a whole”

In the midst of a 48 hour general strike, and with police clashing with protestors on the streets, the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, won the first of two crucial votes on the latest package of tax hikes, spending cuts, and privatisations.  By 155 votes to 138. But as the BBC Europe editor, Gavin Hewitt, wrote before today’s vote But here’s the thing. No one in Greece believes the tax increases, lay-offs, privatisations will ever be fully implemented. This morning I … Read more

The future of Irish media lies in the evolution of new business models…

If you get time, it’s well worth watching Vincent Browne’s programme from Monday night. It’s a highly intelligent (not to mention passionate) discussion of Irish journalism’s most pressing problem; ie the disappearance of the business model underwriting much of the professional journalism in Ireland. It was fun (despite the dire implications of the topic), not least because gamekeeper turned poacher Susan Daly (aka @biddyearly on Twitter) took great delight in highlighting some of the blatant short comings of the mainstream … Read more

ICC reverse World Cup 2015 decision

Yesterday, as RTÉ and the BBC reported, the ICC Executive Board approved the recommendation that there should be a qualification process for the World Cup 2015.  They also decided to reverse their previous decision to restrict the competition to 10 teams by approving a continuation of the 14 team format [10 full members and 4 qualifying associates].  For now.  The flip-side is that the ICC World Twenty20 tournaments in 2012 and 2014 will not be expanded – only 12 teams will … Read more

Whitey Bulger: Boston’s ‘Prince of Darkness’ plots his revenge…

It’s worthwhile sticking with some of this Whitey Bulger stuff, partly because I’m enjoying Kevin Cullen’s sceptical, but never cynical journalism, and partly because of that politics and gangsterism crossover that Pete highlighted the other day. Here’s his latest thought provoking piece: As for settling old scores, what if, holy moly, he decides to help the only lawman he believes kept his end of the bargain, his old FBI handler John Connolly? Connolly, the Southie agent who worked the Southie … Read more

Does Francie Molloy have the temperament for the Speaker’s job?

So Francie Molloy is the new ‘principal’ deputy Speaker for the Northern Ireland Assembly. New as in the post is new. Francie has a reputation for being his man, running into trouble with his own party over the initial RPA settlement which suggested 11 new councils rather than the party’s preference for 7. He also has another reputation for being a little headstrong, and dogged. Only a few days ago, he ran into trouble for mentioning an incident during the … Read more

P/T Brits required

Someone very close to me and three friends have just succeeded in getting tickets for court No 1 at Wimbledon today and will see Djokovic’s and Nadal’s quarter finals. True they had to queue overnight and pay £74 each for the privilege. £74 each is a lot of money to them as they are students but hey as they say it’s a once in a lifetime experience both to see some sporting greats and to experience the atmosphere at Wimbledon. … Read more