Social care: do we need a cultural shift in how we treat the elderly?

elderly, hands, ring

This week a poll was conducted on the proposal being internally mooted by the Tory government to raise national insurance contributions to adequately fund social care. Unsurprisingly the mood wasn’t warm when people were sampled on whether they’d like to pay tax, although its not the kind of “never, never” attitude to taxation that a populist would expect: National insurance will be increased in order to fund social care reforms, it has been reported. Net support for this, by age …

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Why do unionism and nationalism unite against integrated education?

artistic, bright, color

In a recent poll, integrated education was supported by 71% of respondents. It continues to be a popular policy issue; yet, parties have split hairs over the issue for decades. The reality is that because of a lack of will to create one state sector, there is a growing but separated integrated sector. In their own words I will quote MLAs from a debate in an assembly on 6th July 2021. Kellie Armstrong MLA tabled a private members bill to …

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Is meritocracy dying?

student, library, books

While on the treadmill a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a podcast delivered by the ‘intelligence squared’ where they interviewed Mark Mardell who has written a new book on the history of “meritocracy.” Originally, like the term ‘suffragette,’ it was a term of derision but since the 1950s the term has grown a following among left and right. Merit is a strange thing, as Mardell points out it can within a single lifetime propel someone into the very opposite, …

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Summary of High Court ruling on the NI Protocol

As the media and others mull over the 68 page judgement handed down at the Belfast High court today I thought I would pull the key points from the summary for you all to digest and get an initial idea of the arguments presented to the court. The ruling on each is set out below: The applicants raised five grounds of challenge to the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland (Democratic Consent Process) (EU) Regulations 2020 (“the 2020 Regulations”) but in effect …

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The DUP class coalition is ending…

Despite the best efforts of hard-line unionists to bring the narrative of Arlene Foster’s downfall at the hands of the much-maligned NI Protocol, the discussion is almost organically drifting towards values. The party of Paisley faces the perfect storm as working and middle-class supporters leave them poll after poll straight to the Alliance Party or to the Traditional Unionist Voice. The former departure lounge of the UUP has been exposed as the fractured loose coalition of two opposing world views …

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Stamping out sectarianism will take cultural revolution…

Youth training? Magee expansion? NHS reform? York street interchange? Phase 3 railway upgrade? New railway? Greenways? High standard public housing? Welfare reform? Nope, buy off people with grants and demeaning programmes through gatekeepers… https://t.co/iBo97wIbi6 — Jay Burbank (@jay_burbank) April 19, 2021 When I was in P7 there was a great debate around our table, are the colour of curbs “red, white and blue” or “blue, white and red?” We hadn’t the foggiest notion of the subtext much less because many …

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Mini-super power or Pacific dream?

Security is never far behind trade, indeed the leading conceptual theory behind the European Union is that by creating an intricate network of trade in goods and services the cost of any conflict or even minor security issue would be too great – for even the largest of nations in the network. What then are we to make of “Global Britain” beginning to flex its muscles in the Asia-Pacific region (‘ASPAC’)? The UK has officially applied to join the ‘Trans-Pacific …

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Have you changed your mind?

Increasingly online, even on our Slugger oasis, it seems as if a polarity in western culture is rearing its head into every shred of discourse. When it comes to ideas the human psychology has a tendency to make a conclusion (sometimes informed by bias) which becomes our ‘position’ on a given issue. Nowhere is this more obvious than in politics where movement between parties is so rare and so vilified that it resulted in every single MP losing their seat …

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Where are the checks and balances in the UK?

In every discussion, including now in England, about the union of ‘four nations’ there is an acceptance that to deal with political reality the constitution of the UK needs changed and perhaps some tweaks to fiscal transfer just to sweeten the deal. But what is always missing in these discussions is an assessment of something which has always been missing in the English then British system, accountability. It’s easy to see why the uncodified mass of medieval convention that the …

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Derry breathes a sigh of relief as Ulster University plan to move 800 places to Magee…

It’s been a debate rumbling on since the 1960s and has been subject to many slugger posts over the years. Including the lack of strategic thinking over the long-term viability for our health service. The post graduate entry medical school at Magee is set to take students in September this year (according to UU’s website at time of posting) but it has been blighted by delays and began as a project in the early noughties. 20 years in Derry (policy) …

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Border Poll: Take Stormont off the table

Strand one was the name given to the collective socio-legal structures of devolution and inter-community governance in Northern Ireland as part of the Good Friday Agreement. Unlike the North-South Ministerial Council (strand two) or the British-Irish council (strand three) it is the part of the agreement most relevant to and most recognised by the NI population. At its heart strand one is beyond the structural concerns of the Assembly and Executive, it is about the principle of subsidiarity so that …

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Academic selection: a system of failure…

As education minister Peter Weir bumbled his way through a ministerial statement on Wednesday afternoon one would be forgiven for confusing the ad hoc COVID 19 response committee with a debate on academic selection. The long-running debate has reared its head again as AQE subscribing grammar schools finally took the decision to delay testing in the face of a 1.8 reproductive rate in the virus here. Whatever your view on academic selection, it smacked of rank arrogance for these 32 …

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Post Nationalism is a sign of political maturity…

In the history of ideas, Nationalism has burst through as nearly universal in its application, understanding and complexity. The Northern Ireland political scene has long been described as two competing nationalisms, our polity birthed as it was in the cradle of nationalist fervour unleashed on the battlefields of the Great War and continuing into the 1920s with Ireland’s (eventual) split from the British Empire. What we colloquially call “unionism” is a form of British nationalism intent on protecting the interests …

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Copper Fastening Stormont provides the smoothest path to an agreed Island

Michael Martin has a long record in politics and is undoubtedly part of the Good Friday generation in his understanding of North-South relations. His shared Island Unit can only be the result of a thirst to implement the agreement in full without an obsession over the simplistic narrative of a border poll to fix all ills. His re-focus on local projects to lift up long forgotten border communities should be applauded by all (the detail of which has been sadly …

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RIP Austerity?

It is the intellectual debate which has defined our times; indeed, it has defined a greater part of my life on this planet. It isn’t the moral maze of non-platforming or any other culture war battleground we all have opinions on. No, it’s that old chestnut of ‘austerity.’ On this island, David McWilliams proudly proclaimed a RIP to austerity this week on his podcast. He is a part of the Irish austerity story, spotting early on the problems in the …

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North/South Cooperation now has a budget…

This week the Irish government unveiled their budget with an emphasis on housing and all of the social issues with flow from that most basic social need. What peeked my own interest was a commitment to providing €500 million to cross-border projects. The ‘Shared Island Initiative’ is a much publicised personal project of the Taoiseach Michael Martin. RTE are reporting that the new unit within his department will be overseeing this expenditure. In terms of the overall Irish budget this …

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Where are the activists?

Recently I have been reading quite extensively about the period between 1960-69. In Derry the bubble of ‘bottled resentment’ was spilling over into near riot and civil breakdown well before the establishment of NICRA in 1967. Hume was very active in the street politics of this time, however he didn’t enter elected office until 1969 when he beat the long-standing figure of nationalism Eddie McAteer. On his defeat he conceded that the ‘old guard’ of nationalism had been replaced by …

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What are Labour for?

They are a party who haven’t run official candidates in NI for nearly 60 years. Yet so much of the past century has been influenced by the once mighty Labour party. Sir Keir Starmer is proving more popular in technocratic opinion polls, but will his virtual party leader speech made today filter through into positive headlines for the beleaguered centre-left? Poly Toynbee has thrown down the gauntlet to her ideological partners, calling on Labour is re-capture a sense of patriotism …

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The tension between Politics and the Law…

In modern society there is a tension between democracy and the law which has always existed throughout history. Democracy at its most absolute is tyrannical, brutish and often short lived because of the mass hysteria which can engulf otherwise rational people when they act as a group. Psychologists called this ‘groupthink’ in the 20th century, ever since we found this flaw we quickly discovered that it had actually given us our most valuable skill putting us at the top of …

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RIP Sir Ken Robinson: may your creative spirit inspire us to change…

This week I was challenged by a comment on this platform which claimed that studies over the last 35 years have shown that intelligence is largely ‘innate.’ In simpler terms it is implied that intelligence is the sum of genetic characteristics which give some individuals natural advantage (or “talent”) over others no matter what environmental factors are applied – i.e. education, health or nutrition. I struggled greatly with this, as in our age of fake news and ‘feeling’ politics I …

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