Vegetarianism Stalinism Part 3: Natalie Bennett and Thought Crimes

Mick noted the GB Green Party leader Natalie Bennett’s interview with Andrew Neil last week below. Much of the attention was focused on the Basic Income as Mick has noted. Also interesting was Ms. Bennett’s idea of replacing the Armed Forces with a Civil Defence Force whilst at the same time turning the British Defence Industry to making wind turbines: that at the same time as opposing the Global Arms Trade. The inconsistency in that position was pretty ably noted … Read more

Bloody Sunday Memorial Row: “This is nothing to do with politics whatsoever…”

A row has broken out in Londonderry over the design of a new Bloody Sunday memorial window in the Guildhall. The window was commissioned, at a maximum cost of £17,000, in May 2014 to replace the previous memorial window, which was installed in 1986, following complaints from some of the families of the Bloody Sunday victims. A spokesperson for Derry City Council said they had listened carefully to the views of the Bloody Sunday families. “To this end Derry City Council … Read more

Slugger approach to political debates lauded in The Irish Times

Over the past few months Slugger’s attention has been looking towards the South. At the moment there are some really interesting policy debates going on in Dublin and there is (in my opinion) a radical shift in the political dynamic happening. It has always been my view that our unique approach can really add to this debate. In the hurley/burley of political debate, sometimes it can get a bit fraught and it is easy to descend into abuse. We always … Read more

On this day 31 years ago, a 15 year old school girl gave birth at a grotto in County Longford…

On 31 January 1984, Ann Lovett, a 15-year old schoolgirl from Granard, Co Longford, gave birth in the open beside a grotto to the Virgin Mary. She was found later, bleeding heavily; both she and her infant son died. The Wikipedia article is quite short, and well worth reading. The story broke some days later, with considerable interest from the media. From the Examiner: Everyone wanted to know how a girl from a family of nine siblings in a town … Read more

Bring me the head of John the Baptist! NI Opera’s Salome: a collision of religion and sex … in Belfast

Oliver Mears rejects the notion that opera has to seen as elitist, incomprehensible and alienating. NI Opera’s artistic director explained to me that the four-year old company choose “the most dramatic” works to perform to challenge people’s preconceptions and prejudices, and always sing in English. listen to ‘Oliver Mears from @NIOpera talking about #SalomeBelfast coming to @GrandOperaHouse in February’ on audioBoom Their next performance opens in the Grand Opera House on Friday 6 February. [Update – review posted.] Salome is … Read more

An Insight into the Belfast Arts Scene at the 4 Corners Festival

The 4 Corners Festival opened up some insights into the Belfast arts scene this morning at a prayer breakfast at Willowfield parish church in East Belfast. Five speakers and performers shared what’s happening in their corners of the city in an aim to inform, inspire and set the scene for the rest of the festival. Morris Kincaid, the Chief Executive of East Belfast Partnership, explained how a local, grassroots initiative, the Woodstock R&B Festival, had ‘fired our imaginations’ and led … Read more

Emily DeDakis of ArtsMatterNI: Can we afford to sacrifice creative purpose and innovation?

This morning Emily DeDakis, the Literary Manager of Accidental Theatre and an advocate for ArtsMatterNI, spoke at a prayer breakfast at the 4 Corners Festival. Her passionate advocacy for the arts put its tiny (and very much threatened) budget into perspective, prompting us to ask: can we afford to sacrifice creative purpose and innovation? Her contribution is reproduced below: In 2005 I moved from Los Angeles to Belfast, almost on a whim. This has been my adopted home for almost … Read more

A deferred educational revolution prefered to evolution…

Ah, the forces of conservatism are everywhere! It has been revealed by the biggest show in the country that no fewer than eleven primary schools have received warnings for tutoring their pupils for the proliferant 11+ exams… Maggie Taggart in yesterday’s Newsline interviewed the head of one Primary school head who explained that the schools are simply responding to parent pressure and claims that if they don’t provide these sessions in some case parents will take their kids out and … Read more

Exploring the impact of conflict on everyone through film #ConvoCinema at the QFT

Rather than telling stories about wars, we’re also interested in exploring how conflict has impacted on displaced people, refugees, women, those who are left behind and the soldiers as well … We’re trying to broaden it out from a purely historical perspective into something that is a little bit more about the actual people and feelings and how it has impacted on people’s real lives. That’s how Queens Film Theatre‘s head Susan Picken described the new Conversations about Cinema: Impact … Read more

YouGov’s Peter Kellner: The DUP unlikely to hold the balance of power but could be influential

The President of one of the UK’s most reputable polling companies YouGov, Peter Kellner, was in Belfast at an event hosted by Chambre Public Affairs and Lucid Talk. I began by asking him what we should be looking out for at this point in the parliamentary year? Kellner highlighted a few things to watch out for. Can either Labour or the Conservatives break the dead lock that they are currently facing in the polls? Over the last few months both … Read more

4 Corners Festival Opens with Art Exhibition

The annual 4 Corners Festival got under way tonight with the launch of an art exhibition, ‘20 Artists: Religion and Spirituality’ at the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts in North Belfast. The exhibition is curated by Bronagh Lawson and features works dealing with contemporary spirituality. (Image: Bronagh Lawson with Jonathan Abernethy-Barkley, assistant minister at Fitzroy Presbyterian, and Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín) It was fascinating to see the range of ways that local artists have … Read more

The Flag Dispute – Anatomy of a Protest seminar – what, who, where, how and why? +audio +video

The researchers from QUB’s Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice behind The Flag Dispute: Anatomy of a Protest report [PDF] held a seminar in Queen’s University this morning. [Gladys Ganiel blogged in detail about the report when it was published in December.] Two of the six researchers behind the report introduced the main findings. Paul Nolan quickly revisited the background to the protest (the “archaeology”). The PSNI gave researchers open access to operational logs from the … Read more

Change is coming and all parties in the South know it

All parties in the south are now in election mode. Selection conventions are beginning to take place across the state. There is a scramble particularly by independents to tap into the mood for change and to benefit from the disillusionment of the public with the establishment parties. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are grappling with the growing possibility that they may end up going into coalition together. They do not want to see Sinn Féin in Government but neither do … Read more

New York Times: 36 hours in Belfast

The New York Times have created a rather snazzy travel video of Belfast. It makes Belfast look REALLY good. I would want to visit and I live in Belfast. I know we complain a lot, and God knows we have a lot to complain about. But sometimes it takes outsiders to show us what we have. The video is currently the second most popular on the New York Times website. The branding value of such a video is worth hundreds of thousands … Read more

Is it time for more ‘Open Government’ in NI’s sluggish healthcare reform?

Korhomme asks some good questions in the wake of what is something like the seventh review to suggest that Northern Ireland has too many acute hospitals. Liam Donaldson’s report usefully points up some key reasons for the delay in action not least the pressure from a public wary of losing health provision and its local economic impact, and lack of leadership (the CMO in NI double jobs as the boss of the Belfast Trust). But his focus on hospital re-organisation probably … Read more

Donaldson in review

It is a pity that coverage of the Donaldson review has focussed on his comments on the number of hospitals in Northern Ireland relative to its population.  It is true that he remarks on this, but his report is a lot broader than considering whether skills are being spread too thinly across too many hospitals – something korhomme discusses here, and I comment on briefly with regard to locations. What stands out is that Sir Liam considers the Northern Ireland … Read more

Why Sinn Fein need to show that it’s local decision makers who matter

Abstentionism….If there is ever a topic that sets tongues wagging it’s the age old debate about whether Sinn Fein will ever take their seats at Westminster. This obsession is set more so amongst commentators who have for years predicted that Sinn Fein are close to giving up their abstentionist policy when it comes to Westminster. Such an analysis ignores the very basic tenet of republicanism is to make Westminster as irrelevant as possible in Irish affairs. Since 1918, it has … Read more

Tories taunt Labour with a prospective coalition partner they may themselves have to deal with…

This may be something to savour in the months to come. It’s the Conservatives latest anti Labour campaign ahead of May’s General Election in which they picture Ed Miliband in a triple coalition with the SNP and Sinn Fein. Two problems with it that I can see. One, the Sinn Fein story is, apparently, complete and utter balls. Two, it could be a massive hostage to fortune if the Conservatives end up looking to Alex Salmond to shore up the next administration. … Read more

Politics In The Pub – Inaugural Event

This is something that Mick Fealty “encouraged” me to do, and I think it’s a great concept so I’ve picked it up and ran with it. I hope for it to become a regular event but for now, let’s just get the first one out of the way Wednesday 4th February 7.30pm Hudson Bar – Gresham Street, Belfast. (In the “Heel Bar” which is out the back to the beer garden then a door on the right) Open Government Network … Read more

Does Northern Ireland have too many hospitals?

A recent report into health services in N Ireland has said that there are ‘too many hospitals’. The report also has a lot to say about the organisational structure of the NHS here. This isn’t the first time that hospital provision here has been questioned; decades ago, an MP in the old Stormont described N Ireland as having a hospital at every bus stop. So how many acute district hospitals (DGH) would be appropriate? It’s easy enough to calculate a … Read more