Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy…

As America continues its depressing slow drift into Fascism this quote caught my eye: “In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” Quotation: Captain G. M. Gilbert, the Army psychologist … Read more

Professor Rafael Bengoa – too many health services are based around buildings rather than being centred on what people and communities need…

Professor Rafael Bengoa the health reform specialist and the author of the Bengoa Report is back in town today to deliver a lecture at Queens. To mark his visit he has written the following article. I’m delighted to be back in Northern Ireland today, catching up with old friends and finding out at first-hand about the latest developments in health and social care. It is always an inspiration to see for myself the commitment and expertise of staff – and the … Read more

Should Queen’s University break its link with The Presbyterian Union Theological College?

There has been a public backlash against the perceived anti-LGBTQ policies of the Presbyterian Church. Many people have left the church over it, and many more are considering their position. The writer Tony Macaulay and his wife Leslie have left the church after more than 50 years of membership, and decades of inspiring service. Tony was a youth worker for the Presbyterian Church on a violent interface during some of the most dangerous years of the Troubles. Their daughter is … Read more

Join us for a live event – Is a New Ireland achievable or even desirable? Tuesday the 26th of June 2018…

Since 2016 there has been renewed interest in the debate about Northern Ireland’s constitutional future.  As a community is our future better within the United Kingdom or charting a new course in a United Ireland?  Two very different paths sit in front of us and our panel of political experts and politicians aims to tease out the key issues that are central to this debate. Hosted by Slugger O’Toole in partnership with Evolve CPA Panellists;  Alex Kane – political commentator Allison … Read more

Jenny’s mother was still in touch with the Daughters of Charity, and one day a nun came to take her away…

An essential read from Deirdre Falvey over at the Irish Times – The last of the Magdalenes: ‘The nuns took my childhood’. When you hear about Magdalene laundries I am probably not the only one to have visions of 1950’s Ireland, so I was shocked to read the harrowing tale of a lady inmate of a similar age to me. The last laundry only closed in 1996. It’s a strange thought that while I was knocking down pints in the Queens … Read more

500 days without a government – Do we really care?


Today marks 500 days without a government in Northern Ireland. There is a handy website that tracks the days. We only have 89 days to go till we beat the Belgium record (we can do it!). I suspect I am not the only one who could not give a monkies. There are no massive public protests, more a collective shrug of the shoulders. Personally, I am enjoying the quiet. What is interesting is even without a government, life rumbles on … Read more

Free Event. Happy Birthday NHS? What is the future of health and social care? – Tuesday 19th June 2018.

This year the NHS turns 70 and the health service in Northern Ireland is under immense pressure. Already health takes over 50% of all Stormont expenditure and that figure is growing all the time. With an ageing population as well as the increase in conditions like obesity, diabetes and dementia, the demands keep growing. Join our expert panel for a debate on the future of Health in Northern Ireland. The panel includes: Dr George O’Neill – local GP and well … Read more

Loneliness as bad for health as long-term illnesses such as diabetes or high blood pressure

Many years ago we had an elderly neighbour who used to while away the hours sitting in the waiting room of the local doctor’s surgery. She was not sick, just there for the company. She would happily sit and knit and chat with the other patients as they waited. As the Americans would say, it was a win-win all round – she got some company, nervous patients got a chat, and the doctor was happy that someone was distracting people … Read more

Have we really reached full employment in Northern Ireland?

Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey has suggested that Northern Ireland is now “effectively at full employment” as the latest official figures showed the unemployment rate was 3.5% in the three months between December and February 2018. This is quite a drop from the over 20% we had in the 1980s. Northern Ireland has traditionally been associated with high unemployment so this is quite a turnaround. Now as always there are some caveats, the BBC reports: The inactivity rate in Northern Ireland stands … Read more

California surpasses the UK to become the World’s 5th largest economy…

It shows the massive size of the US economy that one State alone has just overtaken the UK to become the World’s 5th largest economy. As reported by NBC NEWS: California’s economy has surpassed that of the United Kingdom to become the world’s fifth largest, according to federal data made public Friday. California’s gross domestic product rose by $127 billion from 2016 to 2017, surpassing $2.7 trillion, the data said. Meanwhile, the UK’s economic output slightly shrunk over that time when … Read more

You get less holidays than a medieval peasant…

Hopefully, you are enjoying your bank holiday weekend. As you look forward to returning to your toil on Tuesday you may find this article by Business Insider cruel comfort. Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes, and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers … Read more

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government…

This morning I  came across this classic clip from The Monty Python and the Holy Grail film. Ever after 40 years, it is still a great send-up of our political system. Enjoy. A self-perpetuating autocracy King Arthur: Old woman! Dennis: Man. King Arthur: Man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there? Dennis: I’m 37. King Arthur: What? Dennis: I’m 37. I’m not old. King Arthur: Well I can’t just call you “man”. Dennis: Well you could say “Dennis”. … Read more

Free event: Civil Rights 50 years on – An Historical Perspective – Wed 18th April 18…

Join us for a panel discussion with historians Dr Chris Reynolds, Nottingham Trent University, Professor Tom Hennessey, Professor of Modern British and Irish History, Canterbury, Dr Margaret O’Callaghan Chaired by Dr Eamon Phoenix. Date: Wednesday the 18th April 2018, 7pm. Location: Ulster Museum, Belfast. Tickets are free but register below so we can plan numbers: Brian O'NeillI help keep the good ship Slugger afloat by managing the business and techy stuff. My day job is creating websites and software. My … Read more

Angry nationalist reaction to plans to rename Europa Station to Britannia Station following Brexit…

Nationalist politicians have reacted angrily to plans to change the name of Europa Bus Station in Belfast to Britannia Station. The new transport hub is due to open in 2020, at a cost of £175 million. The project comprising: station concourse, 26 bus stands, 8 railway platforms, bus maintenance and parking, car parking and a new public square. The remaining land is proposed for phased commercial development. When we asked a Dept Of Infrastructure spokesperson about the new name they … Read more

Belfast’s Titanic Quarter is a soulless hole of a place. Discuss.

On St Patrick’s Day morning I found myself in what felt like the arctic tundra but was actually Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. The occasion was to cheer on some friends who were running the Craic 10k race. The biting wind and snow just added to the desolate gloom of the place. Now to be fair it was bad weather in most places, but I have been to the Titanic Quarter in July and the wind would cut you. The whole area just has … Read more

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient…

Came across this good Noam Chomsky quote today: The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. It rung a bell for me given our obsession around flags, bonfires, Irish language act etc. Not that these issues are not important in their own right but it does make you wonder what we don’t discuss. … Read more

Join us for our live event ‘Reasons to be cheerful – 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement’…

Join the Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey of Northern Ireland, local motivational speaker Alex Kane and Irish News happiness correspondent Allison Morris for a night of positivity. We can’t promise firewalks or group hugs but we can promise you a great night of debate and entertainment as we find reasons to be cheerful 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement. Date: Tuesday the 10th of April 2018. Doors open 6:45pm, event starts: 7:15pm Venue: The Dark Horse Bar, Belfast. … Read more

Get your free tickets for Reflections on 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights 1968-2018…

Join Nelson McCausland, Austin Currie, Erskine Holmes and other guests to be confirmed as they reflect on the anniversary of the NI Civil Rights Movement. The chair for the evening will be Allison Morris, from the Irish News. On the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement this event to explore civil rights then and now, consider the significance of the Civil Rights movement for our society today and the continuing resonance of the issues which it addressed and the … Read more

This Valentine’s Day, which politician do you secretly admire?

A bit of fun for Valentine’s Day. For me I can’t help but be fascinated by Jacob Rees-Mogg, politically I would agree with practically none of his political views but in these days of bland middle of the road politicians, it is good to have someone who holds their ground no matter no matter how unfashionable their opinions. This Guardian profile of the “member for the eighteenth century” is a fascinating read, some extracts: In 1981, at the age of 12, … Read more

Video: Poet Michael Longley Keynote at Launch of 50th Anniversary of the NI Civil Rights Committee

Last night Poet Michael Longley gave the keynote address at the launch of the 50th Anniversary of the NI Civil Rights Committee at the historic 1st Presbyterian Church, Rosemary St, Belfast. The title of his talk was ‘Songs For Dead Children’, it is a variation of the talk he gave on receiving The PEN Pinter Prize in 2017. Slugger is the media partner for the Anniversary so we were happy to be there to record the occasion. Watch the videos of … Read more