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 – … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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