Social mobility as a silver bullet…

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Rachael Maclean was one of the more low-key members of Boris Johnson’s cabinet up until her “get a better paying job” comments made headlines in May. In case those headlines were all you read, here is the context. Maclean, who at the time was a Minister at the Home Office with responsibility for Safeguarding, was interviewed as a part of a feature Sky News were running on the cost of living. Immediately after a conversation in the home of a …

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We have information – but are we informed?

head, straw, ignorance

“Bits of information provide neither meaning nor orientation. They do not congeal into a narrative. They are purely additive. From a certain point onward, they no longer inform — they deform… I am not sure that the information society is a continuation of the Enlightenment. Maybe we need a new kind of enlightenment.” These are the contentions of Byung-Chul Han, the Korean-German philosopher, given in an interview with Noēma Magazine. There are 7.9 billion of us on the planet at …

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From a Bird’s or a Worm’s-eye View, Election ‘22 Changes the Picture Completely…

Equestrians on Tyrella Beach: riding under a rainbow (Sep., 2020).

The votes are counted, most of them five or more times by now. Let’s not bury the lead. Sinn Féin has just done something that looked unimaginable ten years ago: it has, within two and a half years, won a plurality of votes in an Irish general election and followed this up with a plurality of votes and seats in a Northern Irish Assembly election. The world’s media is behaving a lot like someone tipped them off to this possibility. …

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Maybe January would be better spent having an honest conversation about how we got to a place we seem to want to escape…

drinks, alcohol, cocktails

“Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s the only disease you can get yelled at for having.” Mitch Hedberg 2022 is the tenth year of the official Dry January campaign. Last year, 130,000 people signed up with Alcohol Change UK, who provide a choice of daily coaching emails or a steady stream of encouragement via their phone app, all aimed at helping people get through the longest month of the year without assistance from drink. This 2021 figure was up 30% …

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Has Resilience Become a ‘Dirty Word’?

Let’s just call them ‘TV Personality’ shall we? Their name is already everywhere and if you’re curious, you can piece it together and look it up. Everything TV Personality says is so dedicatedly on brand anyway that you’ll probably work it out. Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about TV Personality specifically, or any one particular social media dispute. I want to talk about resilience. But the context is helpful, so let’s start with a sequence of events. A …

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The two races to succeed Arlene Foster…

We’ve heard the names. Barely an hour had passed from news breaking about a letter aimed at removing Arlene Foster from her leadership of the DUP, of Unionism and of the Northern Ireland Executive, and already names of willing replacements were circulating. But there’s something unusual about this process that hasn’t been commented on to the extent I’d expected. The names you’ll have heard are being put forward for DUP Leader, but have any been advanced for the position of …

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“We Don’t Like Naked Greed: We Like Our Greed Sharply Dressed.” The Super League backlash…

It’s okay folks. Those bastions of the people, Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea and Abu Dhabi’s Manchester City have interceded to save the day on behalf of Joe Football Supporting Public. They pulled out of the tri-nation Super League, followed semi-swiftly by the other four English clubs. ‘Pres Perez’ called a Zoom meeting but couldn’t keep the band together. So much for the Little Power-Grab That Could. Sorry if you were one of the not-so-vocal few who thought that watching Cristiano Ronaldo …

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Where are we with mental health stigma?

On March 24th 2015, the world was hit by the news that a German aircraft had crashed into the French Alps, killing 150 people. Information quickly started to circulate about an apparently ‘suicidal pilot’ who had deliberately caused the crash. He would later be named as 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz: he had co-piloted the flight and locked himself into the cockpit while the principle pilot was in the bathroom. Prior to any formal investigation, news outlets reported that Lubitz had been …

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It seems politeness lies amid the collateral damage of polarisation…

Events in Washington DC on January 6th provided evidence if it were needed that the divisions in American society have further widened since last November’s elections and reached a visceral fever pitch. With increasing frequency, I find myself quoting Professor Liam O’Dowd whose career studying conflict in Northern Ireland and beyond has spanned five decades. In an address to colleagues the occasion of his retirement from Queen’s, Liam described how, when he began to write about the troubles, his international …

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One thing to which every generation is doomed is the scathing judgement of the next and the amused perplexion of the one after that…

In recent years, screenwriters have discovered a simple means of time-travel. From Don Draper in Mad Men to Frank Sheeran’s flashbacks in The Irishman, there is one prop, one visual cue sure to transport viewers to the bygone era of the middle third of the 20th century: the cigarette, lit and pluming in a bar, an office or a living room. In the west, smoking indoors has been so thoroughly stigmatised in the meantime, those trails of passive smoke render …

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Welcome to the Era of Vaccine Politics…

If recent developments around COVID vaccination has reminded us of anything, surely it’s that nothing is easy. Proof of anything is hard to come by. Weighing up a 90%-effective vaccine against a 70%-effective one might seem straightforward, but that’s without knowing if those numbers remain stable as more evidence comes in, and if so, who are the 10 and 30% and when and why a vaccine can be ineffective in a given instance. Then you’re straight on to, well what …

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Do we like being distracted?

It’s sunny and I’ve just ordered at my local cafe. My fellow customers and I wait in the little socially distanced phalanx we’ve been trained to form. Business seems to have been steady for the cafe since they reopened in May. I suspect they may be selling to customers who this time last year were queuing for coffees in Belfast city centre, but now come here to break up a day spent working from their breakfast table. All of a …

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