I voted for peace, and all I got was this lousy culture war

I found this week’s 20 year commemoration of the Agreement quite surreal. Maybe it was because I was sick at home in my pyjamas and missed out on the bling of the big events. No basking in the glow of disgraced elderly politicians for me… Instead, I was more struck by how sad and stuck everything feels right now. It feels like we voted for peace, but all we got was this lousy culture war. By culture war, in this … Read more

Thousands attend #IBelieveHer Rape Trial Rallies Across Ireland

Thousands of people across Ireland came out today to protest after yesterday’s not guilty verdicts in the rugby rape trials.  Rallies were held in Belfast, Dublin, Derry, Limerick and Cork. The Belfast rally was at the Laganside Courthouse, with about 1000 people (Talkback estimate) – women and men, young and old – cohering around messages of #IBelieveHer and #Metoo. The rally at O’Connell Street in Dublin was even bigger. It’s been a harrowing 9 week trial, and it’s raised a lot … Read more

Picks of the Week – Gay Liberation, Blindboy does Belfast and Unexpected Intersections

“Belfast. What a place to find your liberation, eh? Bloody Belfast!” said Englishman Kevin in True North’s brilliant documentary, Out of the Shadows, this week. He was talking about his experience as part of group of gay men who were instrumental in getting homosexuality decriminalised here in 1982 (15 years after England and Wales). This was gorgeous piece of film-making. About hiddenness, of course. In a highly conservative religious society. About the internal damage that judgement and shame can wreak. … Read more

Picks of the Week – First Communions, Protestant Gaels, Squaddies and Stuckness

There’s a lot of highfalutin political goings on at the moment. But what are the ordinary humans talking about? Here are some media magpie treasures from the last week… RTÉ Documentary on One rebroadcast the gorgeous 2014 doc, Mairead’s First Communion. It follows two culturally Catholic, but non-religious, parents’ experience of their daughter’s First Communion. They didn’t like the idea of her doing it, but 8 year old Mairead really wanted to, so they let her. There’s so much to … Read more

Despite the political stalemate, are most of us neithers?

More people in Northern Ireland identify as ‘neither’, than as unionist or nationalist. I did a double take when I read this in Katy Hayward’s Guardian piece yesterday. It doesn’t feel like it right now. It couldn’t possibly be true? It’s true. Here are the latest figures. This isn’t reflected in the way we vote though. So, does this mean the neithers are secretly at loggerheads? Probably not. In Katy’s words, “The electoral dominance of Sinn Féin and the DUP … Read more

Best Irish & Northern Irish Podcasts of 2017

I’ve been making ‘top ten podcasts of the year’ for ages now. But there’s hardly ever been anything Irish on it. Because, to be honest, it’s been slim pickings. And the American and BBC stuff was miles ahead. But something has changed. The audio revolution has hit Ireland. And to some extent, even Northern Ireland… And it’s brilliant! People are making amazing stories and sharing alternative perspectives, in our own accents, with our own reference points. Often with our own … Read more

Take Back Control – of our Ulster-Scots histories

A friend of mine was sacked from the civil service for saying that Ulster-Scots was a made up language. Unfortunately he said it in the newspaper. But lots of us have said it in private, right? LOLed at the dafties whilst railing against the DUP. Or for unionists, awkwardly pushed it forward as a political issue. I’ve been thinking recently about how radical the Scottish legacy in Northern Ireland is. And how uncomfortably this sits beside our understandings of Ulster-Scots … Read more

Check Your (unionist) Privilege

Northern Ireland has been such a pasty white place until recently. So much so, that in my teens I worried that I’d accidentally be a racist when I finally met some brown people. Thankfully there was a website for this – a university had set up a test, flashing images of white and brown people on the screen, asking quick-fire questions to test for unconscious bias. I passed. Not a racist. I thought I was off the hook. But as … Read more

British or Irish. When it comes to identity we are all mongrels…

We are all mongrels, to a greater or lesser degree. British-Irish-Northern Irish crossbreeds. Not to mention the fact that if we did ancestry DNA tests we’d probably be 20% African. We live in a divided society and in a contested state. So to hear Foster and O’Neill playing Punch and Judy at the Tory party conference this week was frustrating. ‘Northern Ireland is British’, ‘Oh no it’s not’. etc. etc. I was studying and teaching Northern Irish politics in University … Read more

If not loyalists, who else will do this job?

I’ve rarely heard such a lack of political sensitivity as Jim Wilson telling Stephen Nolan that, in applying to the British government to be deproscribed, the Red Hand Commando wants their ‘place in the sun’. What a disturbing way to put it. But at the same time, Wilson’s interview on the Nolan Show tells us so much about where loyalism is at in 2017. Still grasping for a political voice, still resentful of their exclusion from big house unionism, still … Read more

Where now for craft beer socialism?

My dad has been voting for left-wing parties in Northern Ireland since 1970. But after 46 years of trying, 2016 is the first time that someone he voted for – Clare Bailey – actually got in. Indeed this election, from a green left point of view, feels good. Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn in Northern Ireland can finally feel a little bit less left out of the global action… My tribe in Northern Ireland are firmly ‘other’. We … Read more