Freedom to express, but not freedom to incite?

Western liberal democracies pride themselves on the right to freedom of expression. But social media has within the last decade or so had a profound impact on the possibilities of political expression. The suspension of Donald Trump’s access to Twitter, Facebook and now YouTube following the assault on the Capitol on 6th January has opened up a new debate on whether this ban is contrary to the right of free speech. The irony is that Trump’s supporters have accused these …

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Throwing a Scammer in the Works…

I’m sure many of you have received an unsolicited phone call asking about that alleged car crash you were supposedly involved in (or Microsoft (allegedly) telling you you’ve got a bug on your PC that needs fixing) or an email from someone asking you to deposit a large sum of money into your account – or a message purporting to be from your bank, HMRC or Netflix – with numerous spelling and punctuation mistakes, upper and lower case letters in …

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Taking back control of our personal data in a post-Brexit world…

Much has been written and debated about the impact of Brexit on the movement of people and goods. But relatively has been written about the flow of data post-Brexit. “Take back control” was a slogan used by the Leave campaign. But this apparently didn’t include taking back control of one’s own data. Remember the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal – and in a separate case – Leave.EU receiving a £45,000 fine in 2019 from the Information Commissioner for unsolicited marketing? And the …

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The Past Was Certainly A Different Country… But That’s Entertainment

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” (British novelist LP Hartley, 1953) In the months following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, a whole new debate has opened up on how we should perceive the events and actors of the past. History is undoubtedly awash with shameful events. In scenes reminiscent of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s statues of …

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Cycling – One of life’s simple pleasures…

Normally at this time of the year, cycling fever would be in the air with the Giro d’Italia a recent memory (remember the year it started in Belfast?), and that other famous pharmaceutical warehouse on wheels (sorry, bike race) the Tour de France just about to start. This year it’s all different though, but it hasn’t stopped the Middle-Aged Men In Lycra (MAMILs, I believe the modern terminology is) – ie people like myself – from making the most of …

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Is time an illusion?

For most of May with its spectacularly premature good weather, I was in t-shirt and shorts. Then In the first week of June after temperatures plummeted, I suddenly found myself under leaden skies wearing three layers of clothing including a fleece. It’s as if time is going backwards. But, in these crazy days, we’re now living in time has come to a sort a standstill. We’re still getting older of course, but it seems as if every day is the …

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From Banana Republic to Boomtown Rodents and Celtic Tigers…

I watched a recent BBC documentary on the Boomtown Rats (available on iPlayer for the next eleven months) which wasn’t just your average bog-standard rockumentary, but also partly a commentary on how the once socially conservative, deeply religious, unemployment-riven Irish Republic (a country many ambitious young people wanted to leave once they were old enough – Geldof and co included) has changed beyond recognition since the band started plying their trade at the height of the punk scene back in …

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Tiochfaidh ar Laugh – A brief history of Irish comedy…

At times like these when so many of us are simply not amused humour can often be the best medicine… After the ground-breaking Father Ted hit our screens a quarter of a century ago, Irish comedy shows tended to keep a low profile within the wider televisual world. However in recent years we’ve had something of a renaissance, now that three Irish comedies have made their mark on UK TV. The most popular of these shows (purely in ratings terms …

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Shining a light into the darkness of the Covid 19 crisis…

We’re now living in unprecedented times, sailing in uncharted waters, travelling rudderless to an unknown destination.  Now if you had a quid for every time you or heard this sort of thing over the last couple of weeks you’d no doubt be a multi-millionaire several times over.  Ok, slight exaggeration – you’d probably be about £74.50 richer. The weird (or not so weird as the case may be) thing about all this is that for many of us who live …

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