The reality of welfare reform: “it’s a horror show”

  At the NICVA offices along the Duncairn Gardens on Wednesday, an important conference was held to open up debate about the future of welfare reform in Northern Ireland. It was one of those crisp autumn days which one likes to think of as typical of the atmosphere of cool, reasoned thinking. After heated debate over welfare reform and the budget throughout the summer, which seemed to rock the foundations of our devolved political institutions, the conference, titled, “Welfare Reform: … Read more

An app that reduces food poverty and waste

On Monday night, before visiting the opening of the South Belfast Foodbank, I met up with Carla McSorley, FoodCloud coordinator at Business in the Community Northern Ireland. FoodCloud is a new mobile phone application started by two students at Trinity College Dublin that pairs up businesses looking to unload excess food with charities that can distribute it to people in need. Carla and BITCNI hope the app can reduce food waste and food poverty in Northern Ireland. Hunger among the … Read more

Churches band together to open food bank in south Belfast

Tonight at the Mornington Community centre along the Ormeau Road a group of staff and volunteers gathered to open up south Belfast’s first food bank [first Trussell Trust food bank in south Belfast]. The atmosphere was calm. Bruce Gardiner-Crehan, who helped develop the food bank and now acts as one of its lead coordinators, watched the door, waiting for the first person to arrive. “I’m actually a bit nervous. We’ve been working towards this for a year.” Those that use … Read more

It’s time we actually debate welfare reform

After weeks of debate about welfare reform in Northern Ireland, it must be said that we haven’t actually debated welfare or reform. In fact, the argument, at its core, has been about power and responsibility, which, at this point, neither the DUP or Sinn Féin seem to want. We desperately need leadership and we’re not getting it. The debate about welfare reform should be about how to simultaneously protect the vulnerable from harsh cuts while balancing the government books. Instead, … Read more

Warts and all: Dr. David McCann on Irish unity in the 21st Century

Hey, this interview is meant to be listened to! I’ve written up some of the highlights below, but the meat of the conversation is in the audio, so load it up, go for a drive, and let me know what you think in the comments section! I’ll look into making mp3 files available in the future—especially if people are interested in Slugger creating a monthly podcast. —Barton    Surprisingly, there isn’t a lot written about Irish unification. The Good Friday … Read more

Why is the Left so nonchalant about anti-Semitism?

The number of hate crimes against Jews living in the UK has doubled since the beginning of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. In Europe, where violence and violent rhetoric against Jews is much higher than the UK, anti-Semitic attacks have become so frequent, that they have inspired a new wave of Jewish emigration to Israel. It is estimated that in France, 5,000 Jews will emigrate to Israel this year alone. So serious is the threat to Europe’s Jewish population, that … Read more

Ramadan in Belfast

It’s a muggy Saturday evening in south Belfast and the summer sun, covered by dense cloud, is just setting. Out in front of Shaftesbury Leisure Centre, just off the lower Ormeau Road, children are running in circles around their parents squealing joyfully. Approaching the centre, women wearing pink, red and yellow hijabs push prams past a mural of Gaelic footballers and hurlers; men are gathered around the entrance shaking hands, embracing and chatting. A group walks past the men carrying … Read more

The Twelfth: ‘it ain’t all burger vans and bouncy castles’

On Saturday I attended one of the flagship Twelfth demonstrations in Markethill, County Armagh, at the invitation of Orangeman and Ulster Unionist mayor of Craigavon, Colin McCusker. The day was arranged through a friend of mine who comes from a Catholic background in North Belfast. Our intention was no greater than to enjoy a day out with friends and to learn a bit more about Orange culture. I joined commentator and cartoonist, Brian John Spencer; investigative journalist, Lyra McKee; the … Read more

May could be the most meaningful local election in forty years

  Meet NILGA’s Derek McCallan, a rare political optimist in Northern Ireland who argues that the coming election in May offers extraordinary opportunities for change in local communities. He tells me that councillors are the most public spirited people you can get and that May could turn out to be the most meaningful local election in forty years. After a week of gloomy debate about the efficacy of voting and the state of party politics in Northern Ireland last week, … Read more

If you want change, this is not the election to boycott: a response to Alex Kane

In today’s Newsletter Alex Kane argues that by not voting, he’s sending a message: “the Assembly isn’t working, the Executive is dysfunctional, we have farce rather than government, the parties don’t care.” This is a really strange argument against voting in council elections—especially since this is an election about the transformation of local government. As the Northern Ireland Local Government Association says, “On Thursday 22nd May 2014 the people of Northern Ireland will go to the polls to elect this … Read more

Homecoming: are British military veterans in Northern Ireland coping? Part 2

This is the second of a three part series on the experiences and needs of British military veterans in Northern Ireland. In this article, I interview Ranger Andy Allen, founder of local charity, Andy Allen Veterans Support. We talked about what drove him into the military, the issues facing veterans upon their arrival home, and what can be done to help veterans reintegrate. The national media has extensively covered Andy’s story of survival after he was hit by an improvised … Read more

Homecoming: are British military veterans in Northern Ireland coping?

Two weeks ago, I received a message on Twitter asking me to look at the experiences of British military veterans in Northern Ireland. It’s a vast topic, one I found difficult to narrow down, as the more I talked to people, the more I discovered about identity, issues, and policy. Some of what I discovered was predictable, some was not. What follows is part one of a three part series. I wanted to start with the personal stories of those … Read more

The Last Story of Reverend Robert Bradford

  In a journalism climate adverse to costly, time-intensive investigations, Belfast writer Lyra McKee is hoping to defy the odds by using the power of the internet to crowdfund her book about the last weeks of murdered South Belfast MP, Rev Robert Bradford. D emocracy depends on good investigative reporting. When society loses its muckrakers, the powerful and the crooked get away with their wicked deeds. But the digital age has not been kind to the traditional institutions of journalism. … Read more

In Profile: Kate Nicholl, Alliance Party council candidate for Holywood and Clandeboye

Meet the Afro-Irish Alliance Party candidate tired of boring, wooden political rhetoric who wants to breathe life into the North Down council, dismantle racism in Northern Ireland, and inspire people to get involved in the democratic process. T he big yellow door at the Alliance Party headquarters opens and a staffer escorts me back to an overly-warm office smelling of perfume where I am greeted in an unplaceable accent by the ebullient, wavy-haired Kate Nicholl. After a minute of small … Read more

In Profile: Ciarán Mulholland independent council candidate for Black Mountain

W hen Ciarán Mulholland arrives at Sinnamon Coffee on Stranmillis, he is rushed, dressed in a tailored grey suit, and carrying a leather work binder. He has the firm handshake one expects from a lawyer or businessman. After apologising for running late, he steps away to the counter to order a latté. He’s not the kind of person you’d expect to be an anti-agreement republican. Last week I received a private message on Twitter from a unionist politician who said … Read more