Bernadette Smyth: conviction and restraining order quashed

Anti abortion campaigner Bernadette Smyth was cleared on appeal yesterday. She had initially been convicted of harassing Dawn Purvis at the end of last year. At the original trail the judge Chris Holmes made a number of interesting comments. He stated: “I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not feel it’s appropriate for anyone to be stopped outside this clinic in any form, shape or fashion and questioned either to their identity, why they are going in … Read more

Does Loyalism Have An Image Problem?

Following my article about the Sandy Row bonfire last week, a fair amount has happened. It was burned down (it wasn’t me), it has been moved (by a few feet), it is going to be bigger in size (the base layer seems at least 30% larger than before), and the level of anti-social behaviour in the area has escalated to new levels. The response I received across social media was generally one of, to me, common sense… along the lines … Read more

Jimmy Spratt to leave the Assembly in September

They've united, so have we! Vote Spratt - DUP election poster featuring pictures of SF's Alex Maskey and SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell

Report from the Belfast Telegraph that the South Belfast DUP MLA, Jimmy Spratt will step down from the Assembly this September due to health reasons. This will mean that from September 4 out of 6 MLAs in the constituency will have been co-opted leaving just Michael McGimpsey and Anna Lo as the only reps who were elected in 2011. A few things could happen here. The DUP could do what Sinn Fein did with Mairtin Ó Muilleoir and Alex Maskey. … Read more

Is the Greek crisis running an important political counterfactual on Ireland’s ‘nightmare bailout’?

I have to say that I take a rather different view from Paul on Ireland and the current phase of the Eurocrisis. Like all wicked problems, it is one replete with all sorts of layers and the Grexit issue is only one in a long line of thorny issues that will have to be dealt with. If there is a value in the comparison with Thatcher it might be between Tspiras and Arthur Scargill. You cannot fail to sympathise with the … Read more

The Duties of a Doctor. Morality and conscientious objection…

Medical practitioners who wish to practice medicine in the UK must by law be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). If you do not practice, you are not required to register. The GMC is a regulatory body which publishes guidance on the ‘Duties of a Doctor’. Much of this is about registration, and practice in general. In the Republic, the [Irish] Medical Council performs a very similar regulatory and guiding role today (here). The British Medical Association (BMA) is … Read more

Greece: bitter pills & ill-wills

Of the grand, ambitious projects embarked-upon on the European continent over the last three decades two highly visible examples were recalled today in Brussels: football’s Champions League and the Single European Currency. Whatever they have in common there is one crucial difference in joining either of these prestigious clubs, in the Euro one can gain promotion but there is no relegation. Countries simply don’t drop-out of the Euro if they fail to finish with enough points, only to return after … Read more

“For those who can’t read Greekdebtspeak, well, you’re on your own”

With European leaders, including Syriza’s erstwhile ally the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, warning Greek voters that they will be, effectively, deciding whether or not they want to stay in the eurozone, the BBC takes a side-ways look at the wording of the controversial 5 July referendum the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras suddenly announced at the weekend.  From the BBC article Voters go to the polls for the Greek referendum. — Jamie Ross (@JamieRoss7) June 29, 2015 Here’s the … Read more

Sean Brady, the HIA, and the all too familiar problem with organized religion

Cardinal Sean Brady’s engagement with the HIA outlines a fundamental problem with organized religion: power and rank too often take precedent over a commitment to personal conscience. While Cardinal Brady has tried to articulate it in a more sugar-coated way, what his conduct in relation to Brendan Smyth shows is that he was prepared to sacrifice his own sense of morality to preserve the power of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and enable himself to climb the Church’s ranking system … Read more

Jim Allister sets sights on SpAd excesses

Today, TUV Leader and North Antrim MLA, Jim Allister has set his sights firmly back on the Special Advisers at Stormont. Having already succeeded in getting one of only two Private Members Bills onto the statute book in the lifetime of this Assembly (the other being Lord Morrow’s Human Trafficking Bill) and the only Bill to be opposed by a major party throughout its legislative passage  – Ann’s Law – which ensured that Special Advisers could not have a serious … Read more

Using data for public good – launch of Detail Data

NICVA’s relationship with investigative journalism website The Detail began with the reporting on the umbrella organisation’s research paper on The Impact of Welfare Reform on Northern Ireland. Lisa McElherron said she was thrilled to launch the Detail Data project. NICVA had been keen (1) to better tell the stories of the sector they represent; (2) to forge better links into the media to tell those stories; and (3) to harness the thirst for public data and to ultimately deliver better … Read more

Blogging: Why I bother doing it.

Blogging, why the hell do you bother? This is the question that bloggers of all stripes get asked A LOT and in the past week I have been getting this question more often than I usually do. It’s a fair enough question I suppose. There is no secure income from it, it is generally looked down  upon from the main stream media and when most people think of a blogger a tin foil hat or a techie geek image comes … Read more

High Time Media Moved on from Indulging Pseudo-Controversy Surrounding James McClean and “Poppy Issue”

The media don’t half like flogging dead horses. Right on cue, James McClean‘s move to West Bromwich Albion last week prompted talk in the Belfast Telegraph (not for the first time) of his repeated eschewing of the wearing of a political poppy on his various past clubs’ football jerseys around Britain’s celebration of its Remembrance Sunday each year. This was despite the fact we are half a year on (or away from) November, when the reporting of such a trivial item might have … Read more

My trip to the Orange Museum

I paid a visit to the new Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast’s Schomberg House on Thursday. I was given a guided tour by David Scott, a very articulate and clearly passionate advocate of the Order. The tour featured in a BBC Good Morning Ulster story on Friday (1hr 16 mins in.) The tour took in the key historical junctures of Orangeism, including the Williamite Wars and Dolly’s Brae. The role of the Orangemen in British military regiments and in … Read more

“The exact location of the international boundary between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland through Loughs Carlingford and Foyle remains an issue for determination…”

In January 2012 I suggested there might be some cause for optimism that the unresolved issue of the delimitation of the territorial water boundary between the UK and the Republic of Ireland could be, erm, resolved.  As the then Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, TD, said at the time. Recently the two Governments agreed to address issues relating to both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough in the round. A first meeting of officials took place last week in London. While the … Read more

More Greek gamesmanship…

With the Greek Parliament, and Greece’s creditors in Europe and elsewhere, discussing the latest sudden manoeuvre by the game theory academics in the Syriza-led Greek Government, via the Guardian’s live-blog, here’s a reminder of Alexis Tspiras’ criticism of ex-PM George Papandreou’s, failed, attempt to hold a similar referendum in 2011. @graemewearden A transcript of @atsipras‘s scathing criticism of the 2011 proposed referendum, with compliments. — Finisterre67 (@Finisterre67) June 27, 2015 With the new manoeuvre almost certainly designed to short-circuit the … Read more

Cartoon – Martin Varoufakis

Yesterday Theresa Villiers hosted the Stormont House Agreement Implementation Review meeting with the 5 Executive parties and Irish Government. Word has it Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness fired a verbal volley at Secretary of State. Very Varoufakis. Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here:

Claire Hanna joins Fearghal McKinney on Stormont benches on Monday (interview)

Claire Hanna and Fearghal McKinney were tonight selected as the SDLP’s two South Belfast candidates for the Belfast South constituency at May 2016’s NI Assembly election. Claire will also take over from Alasdair McDonnell up on the hill when she is co-opted into his seat on Monday morning. In the end, the selection of the two candidates was uncontested [Ed – so no opportunity for UUP mathematical gaffes?!] and party members in the Wellington Park Hotel room described the atmosphere … Read more

Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein and their different approaches to ‘local difficulty’…

“The Cobh cumann had been stood down in February…” says Cork NOrth Central TD Jonathan O’Brien, therefore voiding their ability to resign en masse. The BBC couldn’t get a word with Kieran McCarthy, since he seems to have been too busy talking to everyone else. As one wit put it on Twitter this morning… Wait! You can leave Sinn Féin? I thought it was like the Hotel California, the Catholic Church, the Mafia and the Immersion On. — Jim Daly … Read more

First do no harm – smoking and the ethics of vaping…

  Michael McBride is crystal clear; our Chief Medical Officer believes too many people are vaping and this is a bad thing.  In a recent TV interview he was unambiguous in his discouragement of e-cigarettes.    The views of CMO are important, people listen and people take note.  He’s not alone; the British Medical Association, WHO, European Commission and the Welsh Assembly are all censorious.   So are they right? One thing on which Michael McBride and I agree is the need … Read more

Northern Ireland gets a new electricity company

Northern Ireland will have a new electricity supplier from this August. Open Electric pledges to be the most “socially aware” power company with promises to reward its customers with a share in any profits made. The company will be run by local entrepreneur Marc Norris who set out his rationale for wanting to set up electricity provider; For far too long, energy customers in Northern Ireland have found themselves at the mercy of suppliers which have put their own interests … Read more