Devolved legislatures and the EU

Jim Fitzpatrick drew our attention to an interesting possibility the other day: (extract from Chapter 7 of The process of withdrawing from the European Union) The key issue here is the competency of Westminster to amend the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Scotland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006 (and 1998 to the extent that it is still in force) to remove the obligation to act within EU law without the consent of the relevant devolved legislature … Read more

So what happens now?

Well, the markets are currently having their say, but I would strongly advise that we look at them in a week and a half and see if they recover from the initial shock. Now for Andy’s predictions on what happens from here. Negotiating our way out The next step is Article 50 notice to leave the EU, which by the look of it requires an Act of Parliament, which may or may not happen before the summer recess in July. … Read more

Farm subsidies post Brexit

What would happen in the event of Brexit depends on who is on the media at that particular time, and I confess to being almost as fed up listening to the remain side telling us how awful things would be in the event of Brexit as I am listening to the relentless optimism of the Brexiteers telling us how wonderful everything will be without the EU shackling us. Me, I like dealing in facts.  I even like dealing in statistics, … Read more

Perspectives: parking tickets in Belfast

The Belfast Telegraph is creating a fuss about parking tickets on the Lisburn Road.  Fortunately, I happen to have the actual figures in front of me from a request I made last year… First, a little perspective.  The Lisburn Road is two miles long.  There is no comparison to a city centre street at a few hundred yards, and the Stranmillis Road is only 1.4 miles with the tickets probably only concentrated on a small section where congestion is worst … Read more

Adult Autism Family Workshop

As part of World Autism Awareness Week, I attended an Adult Autism Family Workshop on Wednesday 6th April hosted by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and facilitated by Patricia Reaney. Rodney Morton, Head of Improvement within the Directorate of Social Care and Children’s services in the Health and Social Care board, laid out a vision to listen to and understand the issues adults with autism and their families face, and to work with them to design effective services enabling … Read more

Committee for Regional Development slams DRD in Coleraine-Waterside inquiry

Seven months after agreeing their report from the Inquiry into the Coleraine to Londonderry Rail Track Phase 2 Project on 1 July 2015, the Committee for Regional Development appears to have lost patience waiting for the report to be laid before the Assembly, and has therefore quietly published it on their own website. The report is critical of Translink, but the most damning criticism is reserved for DRD itself: “The Committee supports the political decision to proceed with the project … Read more

And great was the gnashing of teeth…

… over the implementation of the 20mph speed limit in areas of Belfast city centre where it’s very difficult to exceed 20mph except late at night. Leaving aside the delay in implementation (not at all exceptional – I’ve seen many examples where legislation has been brought in for a speed limit or other traffic orders like one way systems, but the signs don’t go up for some time), what difference will it make to motorists and pedestrians? For the record, … Read more

Bus lane cameras in review

Some months ago I rather foolishly said that “[bus lane camera] success will only be if the number of fines issued diminishes rapidly over the next number of months, because that will be the indicator of a change of behaviour – the real purpose of the cameras.” So, in the week that DRD released figures on bus lane camera tickets being issued since June, it feels like a pretty good time to see if I need to eat my words. … Read more

Poetry in motion. Just why is traffic so bad on a Friday?


Ah, Friday.  POETS day.  Quieter rush hour than usual because of long weekends, and people getting the bus in so they can have drinks after work before getting a taxi home. So where does all the congestion come from on Friday afternoons? That was the question Brian asked me a wee while back, and it has a fairly straightforward answer, and I thought I might take a quick look at congestion patterns at two other peaks in the week. Monday … Read more

Black taxis = Black Friday chaos

Last Wednesday, Frank Mitchell welcomed David McNarry and two Belfast public hire taxi drivers onto his U105 show, where the story unfolded of how NSL’s traffic attendants are now carrying out enforcement activities around the taxi rank in Donegall Square North. The complaint was that taxi drivers have insufficient space on the taxi rank, and they are being ticketed unfairly for parking outside its bounds.  My comments when I called into the show form the basis of this post, but … Read more

Van Hool vs Wrights

Michelle McIlveen announced the award of the contract for the Belfast Rapid Transit vehicle supplier earlier today, and to the surprise of probably most observers, Wrightbus wasn’t the winner. Let’s go back in history a little. Robert Wright Coachworks Limited was established in 1946.  They first came to my notice in the 1980s, when they broke the near monopoly enjoyed by Walter Alexander & Co (Belfast) and its predecessors Potters and MH Coachworks in supplying bodywork for buses when it … Read more

A fresh start for the A5 – but at what cost?

Disclaimer: being a strong public transport advocate does not stop me from enjoying the open road, gliding effortlessly past slower traffic [You don’t say – Ed] Indeed – but we all have too many things to do that cannot conveniently be done by bike, bus or train… Mick has already considered the opportunity cost of the £75 million promised by the Irish Government for the A5 scheme from Newbuildings to Strabane, although I think that money could buy several Narrow … Read more

On the Historical Investigations Unit…

Mick has noted the reaction to David Ford’s comment to David Funston that the Historical Investigations Unit “might at best produce one or two prosecutions,” which came a few weeks after a related piece by Lyra McKee, but this has been the elephant in the room ever since the HIU was proposed as part of the Stormont House Agreement – indeed, since the inception of the Historical Enquries Team. The key problem is that the police’s powers are limited, not … Read more

A question of chairmanship

A wee Sunday thought. Under d’Hondt, and specifically section 18 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the DUP is due to be asked to nominate the new minister for Regional Development when the Assembly reconvenes after the summer break. The current chairperson of the Committee for Regional Development is Trevor Clarke, in succession to Jimmy Spratt.  Section 29(5) of the same Act says that “in making a selection under the provision made by virtue of subsection (2)(a), a nominating officer … Read more

Aperture opens at Corrymeela

It is a rare occasion that a Slugger writer gets to report on Alan Meban. Corrymeela Executive Director Colin Craig chaired a discussion this afternoon which asked the question, “Are we done with the Good Friday Agreement?”, also featuring Alan McBride and Gerry Kelly. Our Alan linked the Good Friday Agreement with his then church’s annual youth fellowship Easter trip to Ballycastle and being inveigled to change station away from the discussions about it to Cool FM, although he didn’t … Read more

Traffic disaster as rush hour bus lanes to be implemented on an Urban Clearway

In the week of what could politely be described as a massive embarrassment over incorrectly configured bus lane cameras (something about which I’ve not bothered to comment as there’s absolutely no light I can shed on that particular mess) I saw a story in the Belfast Telegraph that is crying out for satirical comment… Local businesses on the Upper Newtownards Road have been concerned about the impact of new bus lanes on their trade between 7.30 and 8am and 3.30 … Read more

First hints of September timetable changes

Translink have announced the following key facts about the September timetable change: Service frequencies will be reduced on some routes – they “have been able to protect the geographic coverage of the network albeit with some reduced frequency on some services,” which doesn’t entirely rule out service amalgamations. Headcount will be reduced via natural wastage, avoiding compulsory redundancies for front line staff, ie drivers, conductors and station staff – “While there will be a reduction to the overall workforce, this … Read more

Budget in review

The increase in the National Minimum Wage for over-25s to converge on the Living Wage was a masterstroke, one which finally recognised that businesses, regardless of ability to pay, tend to pay staff as little as possible. The increase will lead to the median wage increasing due to pay leads, so that £9.35 may well be rather below 60% of the median wage by 2020, but to give credit to the Chancellor, he appears to have recognised that left to … Read more

Bus lane cameras: the first three weeks (UPDATED)

There is one authorised vehicular route into the restricted part of Belfast city centre – via High Street.  Donegall Place has been one way for several years, but it and Royal Avenue only ever permitted buses to enter.  The signs at the junction with Bridge Street ban all traffic from passing except buses, permit holders, delivery vehicles overnight, disabled badge holders and other authorised vehicles (read: emergency services and Belfast City Council).  Cycles are theoretically banned from this entry point, … Read more

Further on James McConnell and Islam

The three great monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have many things in common, and perhaps the most significant is that they all claim exclusive truth. That is to say, there are elements in each faith, belief in which is mutually exclusive, such as the differing views of Jesus between the three faiths – he cannot be solely a prophet, a false Messiah and the Saviour of the world all at the same time.  The three faiths thus stand in opposition … Read more