Try Talking to People for a change…

There have been a number of posts here recently about the unionist community, its failings (real and unfairly accused), its difficulties and most recently its need to “embrace its Irishness” as if it was a straightforward and simple issue. Too many of the comments thet followed them are generally well off the mark and border on the obsessive about the Unionist mindset from people outside that community with little grasp or genuine interest in its complexities. And little sympathy for …

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A Window of Opportunity?

It’s important to head this up by stating clearly that I’m completely indifferent to which of our First Ministers gets to speak first at press conferences. It’s meaningless. Certainly, I would rather we didn’t have the optics of a Sinn Fein First Minister who spends selected weekends attending commemorations of Provo killers, but equally I think it’s a fitting punishment for the DUP’s party before country chicanery in the St Andrews carve up. Michelle O’Neill does not represent my outlook …

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Unionism and a Leap of Faith…

achieve, woman, girl

For this article to work we all need to suspend disbelief and all work on the assumption that in real terms Stormont is ineffective, worthless and has no real positive day to day impact on our lives. That whoever is First Minister has no significance other than symbolism and bragging rights, and that we can all get through the intense period of gloating and recrimination if Sinn Fein emerge the biggest party in May. Do you think we can do …

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A Buddy’s eye view of “Belfast”

I thoroughly enjoyed Brian Walker’s thoughts on Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast.” As Brian witnessed and covered many of the darkest events first hand it’s always interesting to hear his recollections and understandings. I would like to come at the movie from a different perspective as one of the many hundreds of “Buddys” who watched the movie through Branagh’s own window. I viewed “Belfast” with some trepidation as someone who would relate strongly to that period and place. I am nine months …

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“Get Back” – a musical and human revelation…

Since it was announced that there was going to be an eight-hour movie of the Beatles January 1969 recording sessions, I have deliberately avoided all previews or post release reviews, to give myself the chance to watch it. I’m glad I did as it was an incredible experience and one I could never have imagined. It sounds strange to say this about the Beatles, but ultimately the music is of secondary importance here.  There are wonderful moments, such as Paul …

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John Kyle has reminded us all that there is zero appetite for a DUP Lite…

In my post last week I stated my view that “of course there’s not a great depth of understanding of the protocol among those most vocally opposing it (just as there’s no great depth of understanding of it among those most vocally endorsing it).” It was encouraging that there was no real effort in the comments section to refute that view. That’s why I was heartened by Dr John Kyle’s contribution to The View on Thursday last. Discussion on the …

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Sectarianism or Snobbery? The impact is the same.

As is so often the case in Northern Ireland, the hyperbole around Bertie Ahern’s recent comments about the ignorance of East Belfast and “ghetto” Protestants (I paraphrase but that’s the essence of his comment) has been loud. Also, again as usual, it has missed the point and therefore let genuinely guilty parties off the hook. Of course Bertie Ahern wasn’t being sectarian. There is nothing in his political past to suggest that he would be that way minded. And of …

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Charlie Watts – Can You Hear Me Knocking?

The sudden announcement today of the death of Charlie Watts, drummer of the Rolling Stones, really hurt, in a very surprising way. But it shouldn’t have. Quite simply I can never remember a time without Charlie or his band. As a kid I was a Beatles fanatic. I still think they stand alone. But the Stones were different. When I was about 13 or 14 (in the mid-70s) I discovered two shops on the Albertbridge Road – Graham’s and the …

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An open letter to Jeffrey and Doug

Now the dust has settled on the turmoil at the top of the two main unionist parties for the foreseeable future, we’ve had a wide range of commentators telling us what challenges they face and what is likely to define their tenure of office.  Many of them were from various hues of non or anti-unionist opinion advising unionists on the way forward. But the two leaders (initially at least) would do better to focus on the thoughts and feelings of …

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Arlene Foster, yes but spare us the revisionism.

Although by now it seems that the four days since Arlene Foster resignation as First Minister seems like ancient history, given all that’s subsequently occurred, it remains important that the appalling revisionism over her tenure is addressed – from a unionist perspective. In common with most ousted unionist leaders since O’Neill, Arlene is already being presented as a progressive moderniser undermined by the hardcore.  Her own allies are peddling this notion, as are nationalist commentators, both for their own ends. …

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Challenges mount for our daily newspapers

Recently the official, independently audited daily sales of the UK and Ireland’s daily newspapers was published for the period July-December 2020. Not unexpectedly they made very uncomfortable reading for editors and proprietors as overall the UK daily regional press sale had fallen by a record 19%. Obviously, the impact of Covid-19 had a major impact on this period, but publishers will take no comfort from that as once lost, it is rare for readers to return, no matter the circumstances. …

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How cold is your house?

I worked around the border for most of the past decade. I came to understand for the first time just how unnatural the border is to many people there as they go about their daily business. It gave me a very real and practical sense of their innate Irishness for the first time and I understand exactly why so many people in the border counties were so uncomfortable with Brexit. I shared their discomfort and voted to remain. But I …

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Unionism behind closed doors

Brian O’Neill’s post on Sunday, suggesting that elder statespeople from our two political communities should be approached to lead a commission on reunification proposals, was a very interesting and challenging one. While it can be strongly argued that Brian’s proposal is at least premature, it can equally be argued that his logic was sound in light of the ambiguities exploited by leave campaigners in 2016. Clearly in the period leading up to a future border poll there would need to …

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Is voluntary coalition reaching the end of its useful time?

In Friday’s News Letter, Claire Bailey scathingly casts doubt over the durability of our current system of government by saying “The five-party executive model hasn’t been conducive to sound decision making. The competing priorities of each of the parties means that crisis management is beyond their capabilities”. Unfortunately, she didn’t take her opening paragraph to its logical conclusion in the rest of her article. But it’s a start. This came not long after a Sam McBride article in the same …

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Surely it’s long past time that we binned this unspoken “Honorary MLA” status?

Last week, following the resignation of West Tyrone MLA Catherine Kelly following the office cash controversy, Sinn Fein chose to replace her with party colleague Nicola Brogan. I’m not singling out this MLA or her party as five parties have done similar since the last Assembly election. But the word “appointed” is such an inappropriate one in any democratic process and it needs to be addressed. An MLA goes for whatever reason, but the electorate has no say in who …

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Alliance: Now (or never) is the time to move beyond sound bite success to real world delivery…

In earlier articles I’ve written that as someone still fundamentally pro-union. To recap, I’ve felt electorally disenfranchised for quite a long time by two unionist parties that have refused to reflect my general social outlook. Apart from a vote for David Ervine in East Belfast in 1997, I voted UUP. They lost me post-Trimble. So, I’m politically homeless. Like many on either side of the community. The Alliance Party should fill that void. But it doesn’t. Not because it is …

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How does our press emerge from lockdown? Part Four: Has the paywall dice got any spots?

I hadn’t planned even to write the third installment of this series but now, here is the fourth! Events of the past few weeks have been playing on my mind and I think it’s worth sharing. Recently, those of us who follow the Belfast Telegraph on social media will have noticed that it was actively promoting the fact that its “premium articles” would soon only be available to paying subscribers. Hugo wrote an article in anticipation of it happening a …

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Patronising the “liberal unionist”

I’ve often noticed a strange but predictable phenomenon, and last week I experienced it directly here on Slugger. It was on Jay’s thread about the merits or otherwise of the established unionist parties. When I bookended criticism of the two main unionist parties with similar criticism of the priorities of Sinn Fein, I had a number of responses deriding me as a poor representative of “liberal unionism” or as a member of the “liberal wing” of unionism. That got me …

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No news is… no problem for Radio Ulster

I was in the house the other day (as we all were) and I turned on the radio. Talkback was on with two regular contributors who were presumably disagreeing vigorously about something. I turned it straight off and four or five days later I still haven’t a clue what they were debating. That doesn’t matter because I’m pretty certain I know the positions they were taking on it (whatever it was) and the tone of how the “debate” progressed.  What …

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How does our press emerge from lockdown? Part three: Regional Sunday Newspapers

I hadn’t planned a third instalment of this series as frankly I have little to no interest in the local Sunday newspaper market these days. Certainly my days of buying five or six Sundays that would see me through to midweek are long gone and, apart from a quick browse of the football sections (usually when I’m in Costa or Nero for an afternoon coffee) there’s not a lot on the front pages of our local Sundays to entice me …

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