Surviving Covid has to be done together

As cases of Covid rise, the Northern Ireland Executive meets today, reportedly to consider a circuit breaker to reduce community transmission, as concerns continue to be raised about the effect of lockdowns and shielding on mental health and jobs. We know that mental health is seriously affected by lockdown, businesses with fewer customers are likely to fail or at least require redundancies to survive, and the prioritisation of Covid has had a serious effect on elective Health Service treatments.  Yet, …

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Change here for Ballinderry, Glenavy, Crumlin and… Aldergrove?

Wesley Johnston very kindly gave me some old NIR, UTA, GNR and even NIRTB timetables owned by his father, and it got me thinking. I’ve long been an advocate of reopening Lisburn-Antrim for commuter services, but what would a train service look like? The 1977 NIR timetable is the benchmark, rather than the much slower timetable which applied by the mid-1990s.  10 minutes Antrim-Crumlin, 5 minutes Crumlin-Glenavy, 6 minutes Glenavy-Ballinderry, 9 minutes Ballinderry-Lisburn including a stop at Knockmore. Trains call …

Read more…Change here for Ballinderry, Glenavy, Crumlin and… Aldergrove?

In review: why the abortion debate landed where it landed

To begin with, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 specifically authorises Parliament to make laws for Northern Ireland (Section 5(6)) and, in return, the Northern Ireland Assembly to amend laws made by Parliament to the extent that they affect Northern Ireland, provided that the matter has been “transferred” (devolved – see section 6). In theory, there could be an unending game of ping pong as the Assembly asserts its will and Parliament asserts its sovereignty.  Thus the Sewell convention, which is …

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NI winners and losers?

After a long night (I did not expect to be the last man standing on the results liveblog!), who have been the winners and losers in NI? Reflections on each party… The obvious losers are the DUP, losing South Belfast, North Belfast, and coming within 1900 votes of losing East Belfast.  Their total votes has fallen by 16.7% and their vote share has fallen from 35.99% to 30.55%.  Despite good returns from loyalist areas of South Belfast, they still received …

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From high drama to late night reflections

And so ends the day that was.  As I write, sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019 have come into force. Could it have played out differently?  I’ve given a lot of thought to this, and all of this comes with the rider that I am a layman whose powers are limited to google and everyday meanings.  A lawyer I am not. Premise no.1, that Robin Newton should have taken the advice of the …

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The will of the people!!

Much is said about “respecting the will of the people” with regard to the 2016 referendum. So why not respect the result of the 2017 General Election, when the people of the UK refused to give the Tories a majority which would have allowed them to force through a deal of their choice? This is a fact that gets lost in the “will of the people” nonsense. The Tories and Labour have two very different views of Brexit.  It should …

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Change is coming, but could the DUP have done something about it sooner?

So on Monday night, thirteen weeks to the day since the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 passed the House of Lords, the clock runs out. Equal marriage will become law, abortion will be liberalised, and payments to victims must be provided for. On Tuesday, we will have no more Sarah Ewarts where this pro-lifer’s heart breaks for women forced to carry a baby with little or no prospect of life outside the womb rather than making an active …

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Rees-Mogg might have a point. This time.

ITV has broken the news of the Leader of the House’s style guide.  There is a lot of focus on what modern sensibilities see as the nonsense of addressing me as Mr. Andrew Boal, Esq., and the use of imperial measures (a massive piece of virtue signalling for little practical purpose) but there is a very interesting point: the list of banned words and phrases. Very Due to Ongoing Hopefully Unacceptable Equal Too many ‘I’s Yourself Lot Got Speculate ‘invest’ …

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Good remembering

Lyra McKee wanted me to come out with her in the car sometime to help build her confidence.  We’d been talking about it for ages, especially after she encountered road rage trying to join the M2 from the Yorkgate side of the York Street junction, which is not for the faint-hearted. I’m fairly sure I’m not the exemplar of good driving which she should have been following. One of the most important things in grieving is good remembering.  When you …

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What is democracy?

By definition, democracy is rule by the people. In practice the UK has representative democracy.  We elect representatives to Parliament to essentially make the decisions for us, and if we don’t like the decisions they make, we can vote them out. And plenty of MPs – my own included – vote against the wishes of the majority of their constituents. So this is the thing. Does representative democracy mean that the representative is required to represent and speak for the …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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Help

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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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’ …

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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 …

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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 …

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