Mairia Cahill honoured with James Larkin award

UPDATED – WITH VIDEO Mairia Cahill was last night presented with the ‘Larkin Thirst for Justice Award’ at the Labour Party’s National Conference in Killarney. The award, named after the trade union leader and founder member of the Labour Party James Larkin, is awarded to a person who, in their personal and/or professional life has made an outstanding contribution in the area of human rights and justice. Speaking at the INEC in Killarney minutes before Joan Burton’s keynote address Ms. … Read more

#UCIHourRecord Live

Join celebrity cycling fan Stephen Fry [loving the on screen metrics! – Ed], and others, watching paralympian Sarah Storey attempt the UCI Hour Record live on the UCI YouTube channel.   The current record stands at 46.065km, set by Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel of the Netherlands in October 2003 in Mexico City.  Storey is in London’s Olympic velodrome, at sea-level. Update Sadly not a UCI Hour Record for Sarah Storey.  Distance covered in the hour – 45.502km.  A consolation prize of a new British … Read more

Review: From Protest to Pragmatism: The Unionist Government and North-South Relations from 1959-72 (David McCann)

From Protest to Pragmatism charts the ups and downs in north-south relations as well cross-border cooperation as political capital ebbed and flowed in the Northern Ireland’s unionist government between 1959 and 1972. David McCann [Ed – name sounds familiar?] has worked his way through government archives in Belfast, Cork, Dublin and London, along with newspapers, Hansard, interviews and documentaries to piece together what at times feels like an all male soap opera set in Belfast and Dublin, with a long … Read more

The Alternative Manifesto: what policies would you like to see included? #ImagineBelfast15

In the run up to the general election we want to hear from people about what they would like to see changed. As political parties polish their election manifestos and get ready to bombard us with inducements to vote for their representatives, we think it’s an opportune time to think about what we would change if we were in charge. As part of the Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics, we would like to kick off a conversation on … Read more

Is the Left being slowly being displaced by a new form of ‘Irish Poujadisme’?

Before I draw in for the weekend, there’s a very good piece by Noel Whelan in the Irish Times (€!) from yesterday which is well worth mentioning… It’s on the nature of protest, and its legitimate limits. In the tail of the piece he also raises another more political question, which he directs at the left-led protests against the installation of water meters in the Republic: which is about the protection of workers going about their business. First Whelan’s take … Read more

Women; they miss nothing, and here’s why

It’s distinctly uncomfortable for us men, but some women are, biologically, much more equal than we are. Of course, women can do all sorts of things that we can’t, like having babies, but this is far worse. They have better colour perception. Well, perhaps 20-50% of them do. And they can use it against us, well against some of us. And around 5% of them are really super in this. Now, I’m sure that you recall that we have three … Read more

Friday Thread: The dangers of ‘willful blindness’…

Margaret Heffernan speaking at a TedX in March 2013 put her finger on a fundamental problem which is found all over the world. Willful blindness is a legal concept which means, if there’s information that you could know and you should know but you somehow manage not to know, the law deems that you’re willfully blind. You have chosen not to know. There’s a lot of willful blindness around these days. You can see willful blindness in banks, when thousands … Read more

Sex Ed: Just Ask Oprah

Sex Education is a topic that is hotly debated in Northern Ireland. Writing about her experiences the former Alliance party candidate, Kate Nicholl argues for a different approach to the issue. I went to a conservative, religious, rural Zimbabwean primary school, where extra-curricular classes for girls included Young Ladies Club – a place where you learnt to embroider, match your clothes and talk about what sort of wife you hoped to be. So it was perhaps surprising that on one … Read more

What colours are #thedress ?

We were told this morning that the internet had been ablaze all night with the most urgent question in the world’s history. Exactly what colour was #thedress ? Most people thought it was blue and gold; a minority saw it as blue and black. A quick check with the colour picker in Photoshop shows that it’s blue and black, even if it doesn’t look it. The produced one of the best explanations of the phenomenon. So, we should see … Read more

Simon Hamilton launches new Open Data strategy for Northern Ireland…

Forgive my native scepticism when I hear politicians talk about small changes day by day, but are reluctant to talk about numbers. However, there may be some light on that particular horizon… DFP Simon Hamilton has unveiled a strategy document for the implementation of open data as a default. It’s long on words but fairly short on detail; although the accompanying roadmap provides some vestigial details about roll out and intention to engage. The ambition is admirable, but there are … Read more

Maybe SDLP leadership “got in wrong” Alban?

The SDLP is in a bit of a pickle at the moment with its council members in Newry and Mourne appearing to have refused the party whip over the naming of a park after local man and IRA Hunger Striker Raymond McCreesh. The history of the park, the SDLP’s original support for its naming and the reaction to it has been well-documented elsewhere and I do not intend to revisit those issues in this column. What is interesting in this … Read more

West Belfast Business Breakfast: Making small changes day by day.

This morning I ventured over to a business breakfast in West Belfast hosted by local entrepreneur, Gerry Carlile.The event which had nearly 100 people in attendance was kicked off by the local MP, Paul Maskey who preached the need for more investment in West Belfast and cited success stories like the Kennedy Centre which operates at full capacity. The Sinn Fein MP also spoke of his relief that the Executive decided to retain the funding for St. Mary’s which he … Read more

Ringland pays tribute to the quiet voices that kept northern society from falling apart…

This has been a recurrent theme in Trevor’s outlook ever since I first got to know him for the research and writing of The Long Peace: Trevor Ringland refused to visit Croke Park for many years because of the ban on members of the security forces playing GAA games, which has since been lifted. Today he visited the ground to address a meeting of British and Irish parliamentarians, which included the DUP and other unionists. “As we look to reconcile … Read more

LIVE from 9.15: #SluggerTalks to Shane O’Donnell of “Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol”

This video will go live at 9.15. For those of you who will have already watched Shane’s introductory video you will know he’s no professional politician, and his pitch is far from conventional. Indeed, he only recently joined CISTA. The reaction on Slugger (which I should say is not necessarily representative of wider opinion) has been pretty positive. But what would really help us in the conversation is for you to give us some hard and challenging questions for Shane … Read more

What is National Reconciliation? Stephen Hopkins Analyses Sinn Féin’s ‘Politics of Reconciliation’

Over the last few years, Sinn Féin has adopted a discourse advocating ‘national reconciliation,’ which has met with mixed responses from unionist political parties, nationalists, the Protestant churches, the wider PUL community, the media, etc. In the latest edition of the journal Irish Political Studies (March 2015), Stephen Hopkins from the University of Leicester offers an academic analysis of those discourses in an article titled, ‘Sinn Féin, the Past and Political Strategy: The Provisional Irish Republican Movement and the Politics … Read more

Briefing about NI Barriers to Accessing Abortion Services launched by Amnesty #MyBodyMyRights

The law governing abortion in Northern Ireland is one of the most restrictive in Europe both in law and in practice … It also carries the harshest criminal penalty in abortion regulation in Europe – life imprisonment for the women undergoing the abortion and for anyone assisting her. A snippet from the executive summary of an Amnesty briefing report launched this morning that looks at Northern Ireland Barriers To Accessing Abortion Services. (Belfast Bar Man mentioned the launch in his … Read more

#SluggerTalks: Would you vote for a “Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol” Party?

So this is a story with a strong Northern Irish connection. Shane O’Donnell is from Omagh in Co Tyrone, but yesterday he became the first Westminster candidate for a new, single issue party called CISTA (see Guardian here), or Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol. Tomorrow morning (about 9.15 or so) I’m planning to interview him live from near his base in London to talk about his candidacy in Holborn and St Pancras, about his motivations, and what sort platform he’s … Read more

Robinson’s plan for the consolidation of unionism appears to be working

As we approach the end of February 2015, the window for electoral pacts is all but shut, with candidates having precious little time to build profile let alone momentum in a campaign.  To this end I’ve decided to look at the potential future for the two main Unionist Parties over the next 15 months, leading into the Assembly Elections of May 2016 and after. May 2015 – All eyes are on South Antrim and Upper Bann.  Nesbitt needs a win … Read more

The curious case of Tony Abbott #auspol

Tony Abbott, the man who helped defeat the republican referendum in 1999, the man who Paul Keating referred to as the Liberal party’s “resident nutter” and most importantly Australia’s current Prime Minister. Throughout his political career Abbott had been known to make gaffes. As Health Minister in 2004 he made the statement that “Abortion is the easy way out.” In 2007, he was heard swearing at his opposition counterpart Nicola Roxon during a debate and even as late as 2013 … Read more

Which party *exactly* represents a practical challenge to the ongoing deprivations of west Belfast?

Here’s an odd little story, which may or may not tell us something about: a, the relevance of actual policy to the political discourse in Northern Ireland; or b the sheer emptiness of the political campaigning in our first fixed term Westminster elections. For a long time the SDLP has been scathing of Invest NI’s (completely understandable) reluctance to ‘break new economic ground’ with regards to its inward investment strategy. It’s an easier sell to get companies to come to … Read more