Naíscoil na Seolta, East Belfast’s First Integrated Irish-Medium Nursery School

For the last few years, a bunch of dedicated people have been working hard to set up East Belfast’s first Irish-medium integrated nursery school. And it’s nearly ready to open its doors. Naíscoil means nursery school. Na Seolta means the sails, which is a reference to East Belfast’s long history of ship building. The Harland and Wolff crane also appears in the Naíscoil’s logo, showing its deep connection to this part of the city. Naíscoil na Seolta is planning to …

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In a devastating election, is Northern Ireland the crack where the light gets in?

I spent last night watching the election with my da. As is customary, we allowed ourselves to hope for a decent Labour result, and were then crushed by the 10pm exit poll. We’ve been doing this on and off since Kinnock. We know how it goes. But the scale of defeat this time was breathtaking. Rather than going to bed in despair, we decided to wait up for North Down – Northern Ireland’s first result. Stephen Farry was close they …

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Is Northern Ireland Spiralling out of Control?

There has never been so much consensus in Northern Ireland. There has never been so much discord. The guy who cuts our trees thinks we’re Catholic, as we send our kids to the local Catholic school. We’re not (we’re Lundies). We think he’s Protestant, because of his name and the fact that we live in majority Protestant area. Last week, I was surprised to hear my husband drop a ‘Londonderry’ into the conversation – I assume to make the tree …

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UK Parliament Declares Environment and Climate Emergency

The House of Commons has tonight declared an “environment and climate emergency.” The first national parliament in the world to do so. This comes in the wake of mass civil action by Extinction Rebellion, school strikes for climate, and local declarations of climate emergency all over the world. The UK Labour Party, which proposed the motion, asked MPs to “act with commensurate urgency.” Something which the Green Party have been urging for a very long time.  In the last few …

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Can Northern Ireland Change?

‘You have to have hope,’ my friend always tells me. Usually this is after I’ve been outlining the likely facts of my children’s future, on account of our great leaders trashing the planet and laughing all the way to the bank. ‘You can’t live like that though, you have to have hope,’ she says. I like Frankie Boyle‘s take on hope. If you see a leopard, hope is not a good evolutionary strategy. There’s no point in saying, ‘Is that …

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Brexit at a Belfast School Gate

Brexit staggers forward like a whiskey laced fever, and nobody at the school gate says its name. It’s 30th March. There’s no exit, no plan.  The mums are stockpiling cans of beans. Not because of apocalypse. But because they expect the price of food to increase. They’re a practical lot. One friend had no money this week. Off to the food-bank. Straining to make polite conversation while trying, and failing, to hold back tears after pick-up. Over 30,000 food parcels were …

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Ards and North Down Declare Climate Emergency

Yesterday, on 27th February 2019, an eerily summery winter evening, Ards and North Down Borough Council passed Northern Ireland’s first Climate Emergency motion. Led by Green Party councillors Rachel Woods and Barry McKee, the motion was agreed without changes in a full meeting of the Council chamber. This comes not a moment too soon for a region which is set to face major challenges over the next 10-20 years as temperatures, and sea-levels, rise. Parts of the Ards peninsula, along …

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Seanad Votes for Nordie and Other TCD/NUI Graduates – Last Few Weeks to Register

There is an increasing desire amongst many in the north to participate more in southern politics – especially in recent times when the island feels more interconnected and many feel personally involved in, if disenfranchised from, southern politics. While we await the outcome of the planned referendum on extending the franchise for the Irish Presidential elections, there is a way that some can get involved right now. If you’re a NUI or TCD graduate, and an Irish citizen, you’re eligible to …

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Power to the People: Best Irish Podcasts of 2018

2018 has been a great year for alternative media in Ireland. The podcast scene, in particular, has provided an important anchor in a year of political turmoil. Beyond the spun headlines of rage and fury, simplistic panel set-ups for and against, the cat-fights of social media, podcasts have have created space for challenging conversations and depth of analysis. They have provided journalists with a platform to tackle difficult questions, given all kinds of activists a voice, brought historical depth to …

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Future Ireland: Writing Competition

This is an open call for submissions on our current featured topic – Future Ireland: Alternative Conversations about Unity and the Union You can read a little more about the aims of the project here, and the types of contributions that we’re seeking. Here are some examples.  But we suspect that you might have some even better ideas. So we’re putting out an open call for articles on this topic.  The best three articles will win a prize (tbc – …

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Future Ireland: Alternative Conversations About Unity and the Union

The future of Northern Ireland is deeply uncertain. Brexit, the rise of English nationalism, Scotland, Stormont deadlock and demographic change make Irish unity a realistic alternative. The polls vary greatly, but some have unity very much within sight, especially if there is a harsh Brexit and a disruptive border. People are talking about this at kitchen tables across the north. But whilst we are highly engaged about if we would like unity or the union, and many of us have …

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Future Ireland: Where Can The North Thrive?

For some masochistic reason, I feel umbilically connected to the soil and the soul of this island. Especially this messed up northern corner of it. But there is no point in drawing borders in the soil, and driving flags into it, when it only has 60 more years of harvests left to give. It occurred to me recently that the best case scenario for Northern Ireland, as things stand, is to have a mediocre Brexit, for Stormont to limp back, for orange …

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What should I tell my kids about the 12th July?

My kids always ask me what the flags are about. They find the black ones scary. But this year they were very impressed by the bunting and fresh Union Jacks in our area. ‘It’s making me feel very British’, said my five year old. ‘Me too, it makes me proud to be British’, added the seven year old. ‘That’s interesting,’ I said, thinking about their Irish passports in the drawer. And the fact that they tried to turn bath water …

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Doctrine and Decline? Irish Churches and the Conservative Turn

This would be a very good time to train as a humanist celebrant in Ireland. Who else is going to marry and bury the queers and the Yes voters and those living in sin? It’s interesting that at a time when many ordinary Catholics and Protestants are developing more nuanced religious beliefs and practices, some in the institutional churches are careering the other way. Denying full membership. Refusing to baptise kids. Hoking around people’s facebook pages to decide if they’re …

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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 …

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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 …

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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. …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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