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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#TheReset: Reducing the risk of ‘stag-deflation’ after COVID…

If the post COVID ‘reset’ works, then it will have to move beyond longstanding structural thorns that western society has so far failed to deal with. The great twentieth century historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote that the period from 1945 to the early 1970s were a ‘golden age’ in human achievement and it was only the breakdown of the mid to late 1970s of economic wellbeing and living standards that broke this unprecedented period of growth. In the height of this …

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Pounds, shillings and pence: Stormont’s Fiscal Council…

I have before written about the idea of a fiscal council for Northern Ireland which was first mooted in the Stormont House Agreement. When the new decade new approach agreement was published there contained a solid commitment to the establishment of this crucial mechanism. The post war Labour government who established the NHS were committed to ending the regional disparities in relief which had become stark in the nineteenth century. Across Britain and Ireland there was an old system of …

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Hume’s origin story: fighting injustice at every corner…

It is incumbent upon us all to remember what propelled a young teacher in Derry into frontline politics and change the face of Northern Ireland forever. The young teacher was John Hume, born into a working-class catholic family he had been given opportunities not afforded to generations before and attended University. In the words of that other Derry giant (Gerry Anderson) his generation of queens’ graduates [para] “went away to university, learned about the country they lived in and came …

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Spinners and Losers: Sinn Fein cool the heat…

As ‘crematorium-[side]gate’ moves into its second week, and the legislature bit its gums into a non-legally binding motion, it appears as though the heat is shifting. The media are now fixating on two Belfast city council big hitters (BBC): The Belfast Telegraph is reporting the council’s chief executive Suzanne Wylie and director Nigel Grimshaw have lodged a formal grievance with a solicitor. They are said to have warned they may resign if “concerns are not resolved”. What I find remarkable …

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“Perhaps one can live while the other survives:” Thoughts on the NI Economy…

There is an old economic doctrine which at the beginning of the enlightenment was incredibly popular in European ancien régimes. It was known as “Mercantilism”, in short it was a form of protectionism which favoured maximum export surpluses and minimising imports through subsidy (added with excessive regulation) all in the hope of accumulating gold bullion in the national coffers. The movement isn’t pure ‘protectionism’ as it still adheres to the idea of international trade being a positive thing, therefore Donald …

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Symbolism: the art of propaganda…

Edward Colston, Slave trader, Tory member of Parliament and…philanthropist. As a liberal who believes that society, the law and democracy should serve only to liberate I abhor slavery and its nefarious influence which still skews our global economy to this very day. The city of Bristol, like so many other western European port towns, lives with the historical scar of Colston’s ill-gotten wealth. There is a hall, tower, schools and streets named after this man throughout the city. In many …

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Unionist Parties: Good or Bad for Unionism?

If we reduce unionism to a simple definition of “maintaining the link between Northern Ireland and Great Britain” then it becomes problematic distinguishing the actions of unionist parties and the overall unionist method. As a supporter of the Alliance party I come across this often, I choose to define my political ideology as liberal because I think that Liberalism is a universal ideology which should be applied to the laws of the UK or of Ireland. To me the constitutional …

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Policy is always a choice…

Perhaps I am within a rare category of people who believe that ‘neoliberalism’ has created some positive outcomes for society. I will use a definition of neo-liberalism which is summed up best by the economist Fredrich von Hayek of the Austrian school. His ideology and that of the 1980s mainstream was to abandon Keysianism of the post war era which preached the economics of maximum supply and output through high government taxation and spending. This spiralled out of control in …

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The Plight of the Sole Director during Covid-19…

In the wake of the coronavirus epidemic the government announced unprecedented measures to keep the economy afloat. These are largely rooted in Keynesian and new monetary theory policies. The purpose is to keep money in the businesses that supply our economy with the goods and services demanded by consumers. First, we had money set aside by the exchequer to the tune of £300 billion for loans that would relive larger to medium sized businesses and the SMEs that needed such …

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Liberté, égalité, and a Secular Ireland…

In France they have a law which has its written roots in 1905 but the principles steam back to the 1790 revolution which saw ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ emblazoned into the national character and constitution of this large European nation. The law is called laïcité and it is at serious odds with Anglo-Saxon inherited concepts of what it is to be tolerant within a community. So much of our own understanding of modern Europe and modern Ireland stem from the thinking …

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