Greens thankful for consolidation and plan for further growth

GREEN PARTY NI hired a larger room this year in the Clayton Hotel for their annual party conference. As well as hearing from Clare Bailey who was stepping down as deputy leader, party leader Steven Agnew spoke about his thankfulness for volunteer commitment and stable finances that had sustained the party through unexpected elections and a desire to see the professionalism of their ground campaign continue to grow. The morose political mood across society was less evident than I expected.

Slow diplomacy, women’s suffrage, Brexit & urban beekeeping – Mount Stewart Conversations

Maybe a dose of distance and diplomacy is what the NI political talks need? Country estates like Mount Stewart offered hospitality and privacy to decision makers. It was an age of slow diplomacy. Something that the National Trust are celebrating in their second year of hosting the Mount Stewart Conversations at their lough shore property.

If Belfast is a beautiful city, then why plague it with a black sticker pox?

A nasty disease is spreading across Belfast. The Assembly Rooms – which nestle at the intersection of Donegall Street, North Street and Waring Street – have recently been the victim of the ugly pox which can is identifiable by its black triangular stickers bearing three letters and a tag which refers to an Instagram account, a hashtag and a website.

Mount Stewart Conversations are back on shores of Strangford Lough on 14 & 15 October

NATIONAL TRUST’S Mount Stewart Conversations are back on 14 and 15 October with a range of speakers, music, performers and activities on the lough shore site. Figures like Ian Hislop, Rosie Boycott, Rachel Johnson and Fintan O’Toole will be talking about historic and contemporary issues. Standing alongside the world-renowned gardens, the country house was the scene of many political and diplomatic talks in past ages.

Dealing with crisis: Stormont campbeds, staffing a post-nuclear government, & scramblers #20YearRule

THE CAMPBEDS were brought out of the Stormont store in preparation for any disruption marking the first anniversary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. In a post-nuclear situation, civil servants without “abnormal domestic ties” would have helped run NI. And phone systems and scramblers occupied the NI Emergency Committee according to papers from the late 1980s released under the 30/20 Year Rule.

A lack of hotel bedrooms constrained NI’s conference ambitions in 1989 #20YearRule

Back in 1989 the Department of Economic Development realised that Northern Ireland was struggling to attract conferences (partly due to a lack of accommodation) while the Republic of Ireland had invested in a Convention Bureau and was racing ahead with its ambassadors to attract ever more economically lucrative conferences and events.

What to #20YearRule papers tell us about gender balance in public appointments?

DECLASSIFIED PAPERS from the Department of Economic Development in 1990 show that women accounted for just 1 in 6 of its public appointments. DETI figures for 2015 show that the proportion of female appointees had nearly doubled, and overall OFMdFM figures for 2015 show female appointments at 38%. There is a commitment for gender equality of in-year appointments by 2018, and of all appointees in post by 2021.

Tall Ships 1991 – “great spectacularity” that could have turned M2 into a carpark #20YearRule

INTERVIEW WITH Sir Richard Needham about the Tall Ships which first visited Belfast back in July 1991. It was the first large-scale event expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each day. Recently released government papers show that extra car parking spaces were needed, and there was a suggestion that the M2 could be used for parking.

Dealing with crisis: 1988 planning in case a Russian satellite landed on NI #20YearRule

DESCLASSIFIED PAPERS record the NI emergency planning in 1988 when a Russian satellite was expected to fall to Earth and had the potential to scatter radioactive debris if its reactor core came down with it. While the risk was low, Home Secretary Douglas Hurd felt that the government should recommend that people stayed indoors if the satellite’s safety system failed and its final orbit passed over the UK.