Whither public hire taxis and the wider taxi industry in NI?

Wednesday came as a bit of a shock, as for the first time since, well, the early 1990s at least, I was glad not to have an Executive, as the Department for Infrastructure announced that it could no longer proceed with a proposed Experimental Traffic Control Scheme to permit Class A taxis in bus lanes in the absence of a Minister. This excellent news for cyclists and other legitimate bus lane users who will not now be swamped by Class … Read more

Moral bases for liberalism

I picked up an interesting article over on Red Letter Christians yesterday (bear with me), pondering whether the Democratic Party has lost sight of Jonathan Haidt’s five core foundations of morality: Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity. Care means having compassion on the less fortunate and standing up for the underdog, even at great personal cost. Fairness means an emphasis on justice, equal rights and freedom from oppression. … Loyalty: This includes values like team play, military service, patriotism and sacrifice … Read more

The week a public transport advocate said rip out a bus lane…

Or near enough. I’ve got to be honest, last week I heard the complaints about Queens Road while on holiday in Copenhagen, and initially I thought… they’ve got to be exaggerated. But then more and more details fed through, and it became clear that the Department for Infrastructure had based traffic figures for Queens Road on seven or eight years ago, a lot earlier in the development of the Belfast Rapid Transport project, with Catalyst Inc at an earlier stage … Read more


This is not the post I planned to publish this morning, which will wait until later in the week.  However, events take a turn, and they make you reassess what is important. Yesterday an old friend of mine, a gentleman who was very kind to me and my then girlfriend back in 2005 when we were conducting an ultimately doomed long distance relationship, went missing.  It hit the headlines not just in NI but on local news sites across the … Read more

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 http://www.andyboal.co.uk

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