How transparent will the new councils be? The story of Belfast and Lisburn & Castlereagh …

The eleven new councils move from shadow status to the real thing on 1 April. The long-debated Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014 sets up the framework on which the new councils work. A new era of openness and transparency has been promised … well, a new era that is more open and more transparent has been promised, although it would be difficult to characterise the new councils as being councils designed for modernity In this post I’m using Belfast … Read more

Easter is Easter. Christianity ruins it for everyone

Everyone has their thing, their “if I was Prime Minister I would…”, mine is Easter Licensing. Except it’s more than that, it’s institutionalising one faith over that of another, enshrining the rights of the few to be of more importance than the rights of the rest. Yes, I have worked in the hospitality industry for a long time and it affects me and “us” but I can’t foresee a time where it doesn’t bother me so much that I have … Read more

Belfast the most congested city in the UK? (and 14th in the world)

Belfast congestion tends to disappear into insignificance when you are crawling for 10 miles along the M77 in Scotland at 8 o’clock on a Tuesday morning – it gives a whole new perspective on the hill section of the M2, and certainly on Victoria Street in the City Centre. Today’s Belfast Telegraph carries the results of the latest TomTom traffic index. My good friend and actual expert on the subject, Wesley Johnston, was unavailable and recommended me to comment on … Read more

So, what place a possible Brexit in Northern Ireland’s elections?

There was a time when Europe had a popular political champion in Northern Ireland. John Hume made a successful pitch for one of Northern Ireland’s three European seats in the first directly elected European Parliament, based as much on his personal commitment to developing NI PLC as to any sectarian pitch to nationalist voters. Since then and the onset of our local political institutions, the economic role of the EU in the wellbeing of Northern Ireland has got little play from … Read more

DLA, mental health, and the legacy of the Troubles

The debate surrounding welfare reform in Northern Ireland has gradually seen opinion divide into one of two camps; those who decry any reform of the system as “ruthless Tory cuts”, and those on the other hand who see the swelling ranks of those claiming DLA as evidence that the feckless and workshy are gaining a free ride. The truth is, as ever, somewhat more complex. There is no doubt that the numbers in Northern Ireland claiming DLA are vastly higher … Read more

A Bingo lesson in politics by emotional marketing and sleight of hand from Wales

This is just too good to bury in a tweet. For Click on Wales Richard Wyn Jones, Director of the Wales Governance Centre, brilliantly sends up the vacuousness of politics by ineffective legislation in six clauses, in Let’s All Play Welsh Legislation Bingo! Simply score 10 points for every one of the following observed: Government announces intention to legislate accompanied by rhetoric including the phrases ‘world leading’, ‘international best practice’ and ‘new rights’. Government subsequently publishes Bill that is vague, non-committal … Read more

Plunging into a Dark Age of Neoliberalism

The choking effect of neoliberalism on the aspirations of people in Ireland, Europe and globally to live better lives, to end poverty, to achieve equality, to progress, is becoming ever more clear. There is an audible growth of discontent. Neither human well-being nor progress are being advanced by neoliberalism and its assumption that individual freedom is guaranteed by the freedom of the market. In fact the opposite is the case. Neoliberalism has seen a drive to make the state and … Read more

Slugger Poll: Who do you think will be the next UK Prime Minister?

As the UK election campaign kicks off in earnest, will ‘Call me Dave’ keep his feet under the number 10 kitchen table, or will ‘Red Ed’ seize the reins of power? If there is a hung parliament which parties votes will decide the next PM? Vote below then let us know your thoughts in the comments. Who do you think will be the next UK Prime Minister? If there is a hung parliament who will be King Maker? This poll … Read more

Video: Patronising St Patrick’s Day TV…

Last Week Tonight had this great compilation:   There is also this classic from the Simpsons. Look of out for the petrol bomber who looks a lot like the late great Gerry Anderson: Brian O'NeillI help keep the good ship Slugger afloat by managing the business and techy stuff. My day job is creating websites and software. My personal site is:

Latest Red C Poll shows a shift towards government parties (and away from SF)

Many of you will already have seen these results over the weekend… FG 27 (+3) (+6 since Dec), Lab 10 (+3) (+4 since Dec), FF 18 (=), SF 17 (-4) (-7 since Dec), Ind/Oth 28 (-2). [Ind 24, Grn 2, Ren 2], DK 13. — Richard Colwell (@REDCMD) March 28, 2015 The key change here is in the confirmation that the last Red C Poll (for Paddy Power) was indeed indicating a rising fortune for both Labour and Fine Gael. … Read more

Traitorous Ed Miliband mugs Labour with xenophobic sell-out

Are you a traditional Labour –  international solidarity – sort? Ask yourself what’s better for the medium-to-long term health of the UK’s Labour party and the country at large. Is it a pathetic administration lead by anti-Blair rebound boyfriend Ed Miliband? Or a farcical but mercifully brief post-Cameron Tory fiasco led by Boris Johnson? Meanwhile, the stature of the adult no longer in the room, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, grows by the hour. RuaraiStrategic Communications … Read more

Meningitis B vaccine and the cost of life

The BBC reports today (here) that agreement has been reached between the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt (the one-time ‘Hulture’ Secretary, as James Naughtie nearly described him) and the suppliers of the Meningitis B vaccine. No exact date has been set for the introduction of the vaccine, though it will be added to the schedule of vaccinations (available here). The introduction of a vaccine against the B-strain has been delayed by a year while the Health Secretary and the suppliers discussed … Read more

Who is Leanne Wood?

When I posted the link to Radio 4’s Profile of Nigel Dodds last weekend, Nevin commented: I do know of Nigel Dodds but not of Leanne Wood : ) And as if by magic, the Plaid Cymru leader (whose party has a mere 3 MPs in the House of Commons) was the subject of this week’s Profile. Listen and learn … Alan Meban (Alan in Belfast)Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find … Read more

Irish Churches Peace Project Conference featuring Terry Waite – Questions and Reflections

The Irish Churches Peace Project (ICPP) held a major conference to mark the closing stages of its programme, 26-27 March at the Hilton in Templepatrick. The conference featured as keynote speakers former hostage Terry Waite, Rev Emmanuel Murangira of Rwanda, and Rev Dr Johnston McMaster of the Junction’s Ethical and Shared Remembering Project. Waite, reflecting on the role of religious institutions in reconciliation, said that ‘established religion is not enough,’ adding that: ‘What’s required is a real church, people who … Read more

Basil’s call to arms issued to a small room of cats (who may be reluctant to be herded) #tweetupni

At Thursday night’s Slugger O’Toole Tweet Up in the Hudson Bar, Basil McCrea took the opportunity to deliver a more elaborate speech than the informal remarks I’d expected. (Earlier in the evening Máirtín Ó Muilleoir also stopped by for some casual craic.) The NI21 leader has been unusually quiet for a protracted period, though answered a few media questions after his party’s conference in December, and has been speaking much less sporadically [Ed – you mean, speaking more often?] in … Read more

UPDATED: A little car accessory for #GE2015? [Shinners, look away now! – Ed]

I love the enterprise that General Elections often bring out on the net. Now that we don’t need to have a paper version of the road tax disc in the front windscreen David Storey of StoreyTech has come up with From a local point of view, Alliance, the SDLP and the UUs seem to have missed the cut. And, erm, Sinn Fein might be wishing they had too:     Can’t see David shifting too many of those… Update: … Read more

Using Lemons to make some Lemonade: Naomi Long reads out mean tweets

On Sunday I blogged about Aussie politicians who have taken to You Tube to read out mean tweets that they have been getting from the public and it always pleases me to see politicians try something new on social media. Well, closer to home, one of our local MPs, Naomi Long has decided to share with us some of the gems she has been recieving from the general public on social media. For all of our readers here with all … Read more

What the ‘Battle for Number 10’ Tells Us

Last night’s ‘Battle for Number 10’ TV event wasn’t a debate. Channel 4 and Sky News were at pains to tell us that in advance. It was a Q&A apparently – with some of the Qs delivered by Jeremy Paxman (in typical curmudgeon fashion) and others under-arm bowled by members of the public. Oh and Kay Burley asked a few questions too (such as her killer question to the Prime Minister about how many shredded wheat he could eat). On … Read more

Lord Carlile: “Peace is in no small way the result of these efforts by PSNI and MI5 personnel.”

On 20th March the Order in Council extending the operations of the UK National Crime Agency to Northern Ireland came into power – despite the challenge that presents to the Speaker of the NI Assembly – bringing us into line with the rest of the UK in the process. On the same date the NI Secretary of State of State, Theresa Villiers, made a written statement to the House of Commons on the report by Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of national security … Read more

The Germanwings tragedy. A personal reflection on mental health problems…

The media are reporting that the recent crash of Germanwings flight 4U92525 was a deliberate act by the co-pilot. Can this be so? Is this possible? Yes. I know no more than you about what happened, or the mental state of the co-pilot. There’s no doubt that similar incidents in the past were related to the mental illness of the pilot. There have been too many ‘single vehicle road traffic collisions’ where it’s abundantly clear that the driver of the … Read more