The Beano is 80

A little look at something different! I nearly started this article by suggesting that when most readers were young, the newsagents were full of comics, but then I remember that Slugger has readers who are too young to remember Buster ending with the last issue of 1999, leaving only the Beano, the Dandy, 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine on newsagent shelves. To my shock, my generation is the last one to remember the days when you could walk into … Read more

The North West Transport hub: is Waterside Railway station really closed to trains?

I wouldn’t be much of a railway enthusiast if I didn’t want to see trains returning to the inside of the original Waterside station.  It’s an iconic image: a train, perhaps headed by a steam engine, with the carriages stretching back into the darkness of what is actually a well lit area, but don’t spoil the atmosphere.  Something which has not been seen in Northern Ireland since Waterside station closed in 1980, but can be experienced at Dublin Connolly when … Read more

Interesting point on the EEA

This is apparently old news, but does the UK Government need to give notice of leaving the European Economic Area or not? Until five minutes ago (HT the roads fans on SABRE), I would have said no.  Then I read the preamble of the agreement of the EEA, specifically the contracting parties. The contracting parties are not the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The contracting parties are the EU, the members of the EU in their own right, Norway, Iceland … Read more

So we just have to be smart. Apparently.

We are assured that technology will fix our borders (quite often by certain politicians, actually).  All we need are CCTV cameras at the border and no checks will be required according to a a report by Lars Karlsson, President of KGH Border Services, Former Director of World Customs Organization and Deputy Director General of Swedish Customs, so we are told by the DUP. Indeed, that’s what the Abstract says: This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ … Read more

Parking tickets. Or here we go again.

Retail NI has issued their standard response to the news that 94,252 tickets were issued for unlawful on-street parking in 2017. Outrageous.  Over-zealous.  Clear and negative impact.  Neither sensible nor fair. They’ve said it all before.  Ten tickets “every single day” of 2016 on the Lisburn Road is apparently horrendously over-zealous.  It’s an unfair disparity. But Glyn doesn’t appear to understand something very very simple. Why would a road which is two miles long and is subject to Urban Clearway … Read more

The Customs Union contradiction in a nutshell

Further to Brian’s post on the border fudge, an example I came up with last night… Nobody in the United Kingdom makes red widgets. Which is unfortunate, as the UK makes lots of white and blue widgets. (boom boom) China makes red widgets (and some yellow ones.) Britain reaches a free trade agreement with China that involves no tariffs on red widgets (the puns shall continue until morale improves.) The EU’s agreement with China imposes a 30% tariff on red … Read more

Lord Mayor’s dinner: but who was graceless?

Disclosure:  I’m a member of the Alliance Party.  I am also a born-again evangelical Christian. The first I heard was Naomi Long citing Matthew 6:5-6 on Facebook, concerning not praying in a manner to be seen by others.  It was later that day that I heard the full story:  Nuala McAllister had decided not to invite someone to say grace before the Lord Mayor’s dinner last Saturday night, and great was the gnashing of teeth over this break in tradition … Read more

Why extra competition for Translink could in fact make things worse. Far worse.

Brian let me see his post before he published it earlier on today, but it lacks context. That context is the purpose of a private company, ie to make money. As I’ve outlined before, here, here and here and probably other places besides, there are several fundamental problems with the operating model in Northern Ireland. The first is that Translink is expected to run loss-making services on no more than the cash it gets in the farebox and for concessionary … Read more

And so the focus shifts…

And we’re back in Belfast with the main parties and their negotiations. The final deadline is Thursday, but substantial agreement is expected today. The DUP have obtained a deal that is extremely good for infrastructure, bringing things into the possible that were recently all but pipe dreams, although you may excuse my cynicism that the money made available for health is tinkering at the edges (will it be yet another “if you’re going to do this damn silly thing, don’t do it … Read more

So what can we do with £400million for infrastructure projects?

With thanks to my good friend Wesley Johnston, whose inestimable website is the source for any intelligible figure I can find to help me write this article… I was at the official opening of the A26 two weeks ago, and I think that there is definitely an appetite to get York Street Interchange sorted out – but the next scheme to hit the ground was always going to be the sole decision of the Minister and the Executive rather than … Read more

Tory-DUP deal reached

Very briefly… source for all information is the Guardian as that was the first place I could find with the detailed documents! The agreement The short version is that the DUP will vote with the Government on the Queen’s Speech, the budget, all finance and money bills, supply and appropriation legislation and Estimates. In return, the Government agreed: No change to pensions triple lock and Winter Fuel Payment 2% of GDP on armed forces as per NATO commitment Implementation of … Read more

A deal reached: May going to the palace

Just in… from the Guardian We wait for the detail, but it’s a reasonable guess that this is a supply and confidence deal. As I noted this morning, the Conservatives and DUP share 328 seats, which is an effective majority of 3. Sinn Fein abstentionism increases it to 6. Andy BoalAndy has a very wide range of interests including Christianity, Lego, transport, music, and computers. Anything can appear in a post. Andy tweets at @andyboal

All over bar the shouting…

As I write, the position is as follows:- Party Actual seats Expected final seats 2015-17 parliament Change Vote share Vote share change Conservatives 314 318 330 -12 42.4% +5.6% Labour 261 262 232 +30 40.2% +9.5% SNP 35 35 56 -21 3.0% -1.7% Liberal Democrats 12 12 8 +4 7.1% -0.6% DUP 10 10 8 +2 0.9% +0.3% Sinn Fein 7 7 4 +3 0.8% +0.2% Plaid Cymru 4 4 3 +1 0.5% +0.1% Green 1 1 1 – 1.6% … Read more

How our MPs have voted since 1997

I ran the concept past Mick.  “Vote DUP, you get the Tories.  Vote Sinn Fein, you get the Tories anyway.” All because of my impression that the DUP tend to vote with the Conservatives, and Sinn Fein’s absentionism means that the Government of the day enjoys an artificially increased majority – their 4 MPs from 2015 to 2017 means that there were only 645 normal seats actually taken in the House of Commons (650 less the Speaker), and therefore 323 … Read more

The political capital of asking for what you will not get…

Brexit has led to increasing demands for IndyRef2 and an NI border poll, and on principle, the British Government has not exactly been slow to rule them out.  Nicola Sturgeon is making the case that Brexit is changing the opinion of a large number of people in Scotland [A major change of circumstances? – Ed] and Sinn Fein have made a similar case. However, all of this is apparently for nothing, because James Brokenshire has to be persuaded that the … Read more

So what of those 27 trade deals?

Time for a little light relief. Much is made of the 27 countries queuing up to make trade deals with the UK, but as ever the devil is in the detail.  The first observation is that two or three of the countries concerned are not in a position to enter into bilaterals with the United Kingdom, as this would conflict with Germany and Ireland’s membership of the EU and possibly (although I can’t quite be sure) Switzerland’s bilateral treaties with … Read more

Contradicting Carl’s constitutional conundrum

Picking up on Mick’s post regarding comments by Carl Gardner, I thought it might be helpful to give another perspective, having like Carl read the full judgement, but I don’t think he has quite picked up on some of the most significant points.  This is what I posted yesterday on another site… I’ve read the judgement (not all in one go, though!) There are several key points, but it comes down to one thing: The European Communities Act 1972 grants … Read more

The NHS prescription: £22 billion of efficiency savings

At what point can an organisation which has undergone many years of reorganisations and “efficiency savings” actually create any more efficiencies and still comply with the regulatory regime? Leave aside the arguments about the £350 million lie of the Leave campaign, because it’s not actually relevant until Brexit is complete.  Even if every penny we actually pay into the EU were diverted to the NHS, apart from the inability to fund agricultural subsidies and infrastructure funding, that is a long … Read more

City council recommends no free Christmas parking

This is a rare post from myself that is almost entirely from the perspective of being a motorist. As Belfast City Council’s Growth and Regeneration committee recommends that they do not offer free parking after 6pm or on Saturdays coming up to Christmas, my first reaction is that in fact we are only really discussing one thing: free parking on a Saturday. But what about parking for late night shopping?  Well, only three council car parks charge after 6pm – … Read more

Interview with Translink CEO Chris Conway

Thursday afternoon in the Europa Buscentre, and knowing I’ve been scooped by the Business Telegraph (the price of blogging), I meet with Chris Conway in the conference room.  We’ve met before, as I happened to be at Stormont for an Autism event on the day Translink launched Train and Bus week, but this chat has been pre-arranged to talk about the new ticketing systems. Phone is recording the audio (no boos today), and we dive fairly quickly into the new … Read more