Motoring could become more expensive for NI motorists

Slugger has had a number of excellent articles this year on transport especially in Belfast with the new bus lanes etc. Largely un-noticed, however, has been one seemingly unimportant event which may have significant relevance for many of Northern Ireland’s drivers. Clearly the recent reduction in the price of fuel is welcomed by many / most. However, despite the fall in price it must be remembered that most of the cost of fuel is tax and that tax might be … Read more

So much of the news this year has been hopeless, depressing, and above all, confusing. To which the only response is to say, “oh dear.”

The one highlight in the otherwise terrible Christmas TV was Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe. It is well worth a watch. A segment of the show was from the acclaimed documentary maker Adam Curtis.  In the piece Curtis explores the idea that our current political apathy and disillusionment with politics is a deliberate strategy by our ruling class to keep us all in the dark while they get on with plundering the wealth of the nation. I don’t normally believe in conspiracy … Read more

Flanagan indicating possible early election next year?

Might be reading a bit too much in to this but it’s a strange tweet from the Irish Foreign Minister, when no election is due to happen. Possible election in Ireland next year? 2015 offers Ireland the choice of Constitutional politics or Cult politics. — Charlie Flanagan (@CharlieFlanagan) December 31, 2014   David McCannDavid McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

The People’s Referendum: Why Scotland Will Never Be the Same Again (Peter Geoghegan)

The last book I completed reading in 2014 also turned out to be my favourite of the year. Peter Geoghegan’s The People’s Referendum has been published recently and tells the story of his journey through Scotland and further afield getting under the skin of the independence campaign in the run up to September’s referendum. In Geoghegan’s own words: … the independence referendum changed not just Scottish politics but the nation’s people, its sense of itself and its future. This is … Read more

“The brinkmanship that seems inescapable on such occasions has become self-indulgent and self-important too”

The Guardian’s editorial on the Stormont House Agreement has some pertinent things to note about Northern Ireland’s latest deal.  Although, if, as they claim, “the glass is half-full” it is also, by definition, half-empty.  From the Guardian editorial The talks came very close, after 11 weeks of discussion, to falling apart, as earlier efforts under the chairmanship of Richard Haass had in fact done. It is good that the same did not happen this time. Yet there is precious little else … Read more

The results of our 2015 predictions survey!

More than 270 people filled in the survey over the past day and here are the results: Bad news for big Al but not entirely unexpected. Who will be the new SDLP leader? The favourite is Colum Eastwood, but can he reverse the party’s decline or are they beyond all hope? As Gerry Adams begins his 32nd year as President of Sinn Fein it is no surprise that many think he will hang on for another year.   As with … Read more

7 NI political hot potatoes for early 2015

1. Expect Mitchel McLaughlin to be finally elected as Speaker of the NI Assembly. If the Welfare Reform Bill passes its Consideration Stage by the end of February (as the financial package requires), will the DUP withdraw their objection and allow Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin to be elected as Speaker? They’ll surely not wait until the Bill receives Royal Assent? Mitchel’s elevation will create a vacancy for a Deputy Speaker. Who will the DUP nominate from within their ranks? Realistically … Read more

Merged photos of Belfast old and new…

Someone in The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has been busy with the aul photoshop. They have merged old photos of Belfast with modern views and the results are pretty cool. Whenever I see old photos of Belfast in its Victorian splendour I can’t help thinking it’s been downhill ever since. But I suppose we can console ourselves with indoor plumbing, antibiotics, the internet, Poundland and all the other wonders of the modern era. See all the photos on … Read more

Death in Cobh and Attack in Cavan

A couple of days ago, Patricia McBride wrote on Slugger that “our political leaders north and south must become pro-woman” in light of the recent tribulations of Dawn Purvis, Director of Marie Stopes, as well as the judgement delivered by the High Court in Dublin last week regarding whether to continue life support for a pregnant woman described as clinically brain dead and, of course, the high profile case of Savita Halappanavar whose death was not prevented in an Irish … Read more

What’s more effective at creating jobs and driving investment, corporate tax cuts or investing in education and skills?

One of the key arguments from advocates of the proposed Corporation Tax cut is that cutting taxes will stimulate job growth and attract foreign direct investment (FDI).  The paper on the DETI website quotes an OECD paper, which states that for every percentage point decrease in Corporation Tax, FDI increases by between 0% and 5%. However, the OECD paper was published in February 2008, and from an economic point of view, the world is a very different place to what … Read more

The Corporation Tax cut experiment – lessons learned from The Azores

The rocky outcrop of The Azores has been talked about more than is usual in Northern Ireland in recent months and years.  This isn’t due to its sudden explosion in popularity as a holiday destination for the good burghers of Ulster, but because of a 2006 ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Communities.  This decision concerned Portugal allowing its autonomous regions to reduce the rate of personal and corporate taxes by 30%, which the territory of The … Read more

Politicians must become Pro-Woman to stop further horrors

I’m not pro-choice. Nor am I pro-life. I reject both of those labels because they’ve been used in such a pejorative way for so long that they have come to denote extreme views on both sides of the debate around the rights of women and the rights of unborn children that to identify as one automatically makes you a target of hatred and abuse from the other. The recent tribulations of Dawn Purvis, Director of the Marie Stopes clinic in … Read more

Two centuries on, how Special has this Relationship been?

It must rank as one of the most spectacular early Christmas presents ever.  Exactly two hundred years ago, representatives of the British and American governments met in the Flemish city of Ghent to agree a Peace Treaty, ending the increasingly-misnamed War of 1812.  OK, it did not mean that all the fighting was yet over: the two countries’ armies would meet in one final battle in New Orleans just over two weeks later, in which the Americans comprehensively thrashed their … Read more

A very Happy Christmas to all Slugger’s readers, fans (and grumpy old detractors…)

I was thinking of letting the headline from Brian’s Stormont House post from yesterday be the last post from Slugger before Christmas, not least because its warm and generous sentiments are probably the best way to finish off a less than optimal year for Northern Irish politics. All government business saved to the end provides warm sense of promise for the new year. 2014 has been an unexpectedly good year for Slugger. With the addition to the team of David McCann as deputy editor … Read more

The star of wonder shines through the Christmas Agreement

In Northern Ireland God seems to work in mysterious ways  his wonders  to perform  at peak moments in the Christian calendar. Sixteen years after the Good Friday ( or Belfast ) Agreement, we have the Christmas ( or Stormont House) Agreement. Behind the details the main features are: Apparently genuine efforts by the parties to end deadlock by tackling it through a highly ambitious, comprehensive agenda . Against expectations, the dam seems to have broken.    Regular monitoring of the conduct of the … Read more

‘Stormont House’ deal demonstrates how limited compromises bring limited wins…

I’ll leave some of the detail to others to pick through, so some quick (very quick) on the hoof reactions. Sinn Fein (and the SDLP) have pretty much swallowed the Tory austerity agenda whole, and with barely a backward glance to their previous [Unsustainable? – Ed] anti reform agenda. The £1.9 million is recouped mostly from increased loan limits, one-off land sales and the wholesale raiding of capital budgets.  Cameron has barely moved on the compensating package. The fines accrued … Read more

Belfast Harbour Up For Sale…

After some skirting around the issue consideration, and after having the idea of selling slammed as ‘shortsighted’ by the head of the Northern Ireland Science Park, it now appears today that Belfast Harbour Estate will be sold for £500m. The money will go to the Executive, presumably to fund the cut to NI’s corporation tax. You may remember yesterday I was having a bit of a rant about Belfast City Council’s decision to spend £105m on refurbishing / redeveloping leisure … Read more

Stormont House Agreement (reduced to 750 words, then further digested to 350 and 140 words) #StormontTalks

For those who don’t want to read the full document here’s an easy to digest 750-word summary!. (At the bottom you’ll find an even more concise 350 word digest, along with downloadable versions to re-use.) Final balanced budget to be agreed in January 2015. Legislation before Assembly in January 2015 to push through Welfare changes; no new money for ‘flexibilities and top-ups’ added to address local Welfare need. The £114m welfare reform deduction to be proportionately reduced if implementation of … Read more

Stormont House Agreement (in full) #StormontTalks

The NIO have published the text of the Stormont House Agreement, along with the financial annex. (I’ve also summarised the key bodies, dates and funds down to 750 words [and then just 350 words] in a separate post.) STORMONT HOUSE AGREEMENT Finance and Welfare 
The participants agree: 1. Early measures are needed to address the longer term structural financial difficulties in the Northern Ireland budget. 2. In particular there is a need for measures to improve the efficiency of the … Read more