Northern Ireland to miss out on another 2012 Olympics opportunity?

Not satisfied with ensuring that Northern Ireland doesn’t have a stadium in place to host football matches or any other sporting discipline during the 2012 Olympics, it seems Belfast is now also out of the running as a potential venue for training camps ahead of the world’s largest sporting event after the city’s bid arrived too late to be considered. It seems funding bids for a cycling velodrome and an upgrade to an already existing athletics track were refused after … Read more

Darling needs to be less out of whack in Budget 2009

When Alistair Darling presented his first budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer in March 2008, the US mortgage markets were in meltdown and the credit markets barely functioning. But Darling remained confident that the United Kingdom was well-placed to “maintain stability” through the world economic slowdown. He bullishly predicted that the British economy would “continue to grow through this year and beyond”. The United Kingdom was the “most stable” economy in the G7, with growth expected to reach 2% in … Read more

150 years of Irish Times available

For those interested in doing a spot of research or simply some historical browsing, the entire 150-year archive of the Irish Times is freely available at the moment. The offer ends April 6th, so enjoy it while you can. Feel free to post any gems you find. George

Lisbon or Nice – the choice facing Irish voters

One point in José Manuel Barroso’s interview with RTÉ that has so far failed to receive much coverage is the EU Commission president’s admission that, even if there is a second no vote to the Lisbon Treaty, the world won’t fall in and the European Union will continue pretty much as before. If the Lisbon Treaty fails then it’s full steam ahead with the Nice Treaty instead. No talk of crisis, no mention of stasis, no mumblings about a disaster … Read more

Sterling in crisis – will it end in tears?

While some northerners see opportunity in the form of southern shoppers from sterling’s precipitous fall in recent months, others in Great Britain are less sanguine about the benefits accruing from the weakness of the British currency, not least because of Gordon Brown’s budget profligacy to try and encourage consumer spending in the UK as a whole. Willem Buiter, Professor of European Political Economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science highlights some of huge issues facing the British … Read more

Mixed messages over success of British Army Irish recruitment drive

Last month, the Times reported how 16 per cent of the new recruits to the British Army in Northern Ireland since April were from south of the border, more than double the figure for 2006. Slugger dealt with it here. However, today the Irish Independent reported that an “expensive” recruitment drive by the British Army in the Republic had resulted in just 24 applicants signing up in the last 18 months. Why the discrepancy in opinions/reporting of the recruitment figures? … Read more

Robinson and Adams continue blame game

It seems DUP leader Peter Robinson is now fully aware of the chill economic winds blowing through Northern Ireland and like any decent politician worth his salt, has embarked on a policy of blaming someone else for the upcoming woes. While others blame, for example, the banks, Robinson preferred instead to focus on Sinn Féin when addressing a business dinner in East Belfast. According to Robinson: These are critical months for Northern Ireland not just in relation to building for … Read more

Last chance saloon or flogging a dead horse?

The Sunday Times has published Platinum One’s report on how to transform the fortunes of domestic football on this island and, not surprisingly, it involves the creation of an All-Ireland Premier League. The plan would see the league run along the lines of the English and Scottish Premier Leagues which would have a prize money of nearly €4m (£3.2m) a year, this at a time when many clubs on both sides of the border are struggling to remain in existence,not … Read more

Could Northern Ireland’s public sector pension liability really be this bad?

The recently released Varney Review discussed here once again highlighted how hugely bloated Northern Ireland’s public sector is, pointing out that an incredible 28% of Northern Ireland’s workforce are in the public sector as opposed to 20% in the UK and that public spending accounts for 67% of GVA, the highest in the developed world. But one area it didn’t touch on was what sort of pension liability this entails for Northern Ireland going forward, which by my reckoning is … Read more

Give a dog a bad name?

A picture is worth a thousand words in the media, especially if it’s one that can reinforce a popular stereotype. In this case, it’s Linfield fans as a horde of troublemakers. The incident in Dublin involving Linfield fans at the Setanta Cup clash against St Patrick’s Athletic comes hot on the heels of media reports of Linfield fans’ alleged involvement in a throat-slashing attack in Belfast.The various inaccuracies of the reporting of the Belfast incident have already been discussed at … Read more

Dublin’s IFSC moves North

New laws will be put in place to extend Dublin’s Irish Financial Services Sector across the border. The announcement came following a meeting between Taoiseach-in-waiting Brian Cowen and Northern First Minister-in-wating Peter Robinson. Under the plan, companies based in the Irish Republic, which are currently suffering skills shortages, will be able to employ undergraduates in satellite operations situated in Northern Ireland – without the risk of the Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) losing its present tax-exempt status. Some might … Read more

Joint FF/SDLP candidate for 2009 European elections in Northern Ireland?

It seems a bit early for such a step to me but there is speculation that Fianna Fáil could be making a move north of the border sooner rather than later. According to Ireland.com: Minister for Foreign Dermot Ahern said during a visit to Belfast that the party had received hundreds of submissions over the past few months and there was a feeling that the consultation period should be extended to the summer to properly complete their deliberations. Mr Ahern, … Read more

Ireland and “the largest financial shock since the Great Depression”

While the UK wrestles with the problem of a plummeting sterling the Irish Republic faces an equally difficult challenge in the form of a soaring euro. The International Monetary Fund says the Irish economy will grow by less than 2% this year, the slowest pace in almost 20 years and down from 5.3% in 2007. House prices have fallen 8.8 percent in the last 12 months, and the jobless rate rose to an eight-year high of 5.2 percent in February. … Read more

The UK and “the largest financial shock since the Great Depression”

Sterling has hit an 11-year low against a range of currencies and slumped to 80p against the euro for the first time as consumer confidence wanes against a weakening housing market and a downgrade to UK growth forecasts. On the same day the International Monetary Fund cut its UK growth forecast for next year to 1.6 per cent, blaming the current credit crunch. Only last month, UK Chancellor Alistair Darling forecast growth for 2008 of 1.75-2.25 per cent and 2.25-2.75 … Read more

“A New Year proposal that will be too good for the FAI and IFA to refuse”

The Irish Independent reports that “advanced discussions about the introduction of an All Ireland soccer league” have taken place between top eircom League and Irish League sides and with the backing of “significant third party” encouragement. While the report cites no sources and accordingly has to be taken with a large pinch of salt, it appears the intention is to draft a New Year proposal that “will be too good for the FAI and IFA to refuse”. Daniel McDonnell believes … Read more

FIFA suggests “amicable solution which is acceptable for both member associations”

FIFA certainly seem to have been doing some brainstorming in an effort to get out of the pickle being caused by the ongoing controversy about the eligibility of footballers in Ireland. Football’s ruling body has just informed Slugger that they have put forward a proposal (reproduced in full below the fold) that means someone born in Cork could play for Northern Ireland while someone born in Belfast could play for the Republic of Ireland. Now all that remains to be … Read more

“From our side nothing has been decided”

There seems to be conflicting news coming out regarding the issue of the FAI drafting players from throughout the island of Ireland. The Irish Independent reports that FIFA has now decided “the FAI, who may no longer quote the Good Friday Agreement as an excuse for drafting up players born on the island of Ireland” while the Belfast Telegraph says that from now on the FAI “can only call on players born in the Republic, or whose parents, or grandparents, … Read more

Process of Irish unity “should have a modest beginning and no predetermined end”

The views of Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, the former head of the Northern Ireland civil service, on the future of Ireland make interesting reading. Bloomfield, who was secretary to the first but failed 1974 Sunningdale powersharing government, made his speech at the Merriman Summer School and it is reproduced in full by the Irish Times on its website. Here is an abridged version: On the stance of the Free State and Republic in addressing the question of the North. When an … Read more

Up to our oxters in debt

It seems the citizens of the UK now owe as much as the entire value of the British economy while, not to be outdone, Ireland has moved to the top of the eurozone’s indebtedness table. Starting with the UK, the Independent reports that gross domestic product (GDP) will hit £1.33 trillion this year, less than the £1.35trillion which was outstanding on mortgages, credit cards and personal loans in June. Housing debt is the main cause at £1.131trillion while debt on … Read more

Irish abortion rate continues to fall, UK’s continues to rise

The number of Irish women travelling to the UK for abortions continued to drop in 2006 while, in contrast, the overall figures for the UK remain on an upward trend. The same divergence was also seen in the number of teenage pregnancies in both countries. Last year, 5,042 women gave Irish addresses at British abortion clinics, a reduction of 1,631 on 2001 figures. The number of Irish women under 20 attending British clinics fell by 292 between 2001 and 2006. … Read more