#RebootPod: Ireland’s housing problem from a sustainability point of view

#RebootPod podcast is for policy-minded optimists, co-hosted by Dublin-based Rory Hearn and Tony Groves and is focused on seeking solutions, rather than restating old misery. They started with Mick Byrne, who lectures in political economy at UCD and focuses on breaking the negative narrative cycle and looking for sustainable solutions to the housing crisis.

“Less poll-watching, more planning [and more action], please….”

One of the problems with the Queens survey Brian highlighted this morning is that the Brexit related questions are couched in hypothetical terms “what if”. That makes them hard to read, and easy to dismiss. Nevertheless, it lances certain popular misassumptions about where we’re going. The vacuum of the last few years both in Northern Ireland and Westminster has given rise to an enormous amount of hyperbole around the consequences of a hard Brexit, most of it based on political … Read more

Without political direction, Northern Ireland is falling further and further into itself…

So the incinerator in Mallusk cannot go ahead on a nod from a civil servant, says Mrs Justice Keegan in her judgement yesterday. The argument (in pure terms) is that senior civil servants cannot make decisions without political sanction from the minister. Interestingly, it makes no distinction on what constitutes a decision, or at what level a decision can be made. Mark Devenport reports: In September 2017 the then Department for Infrastructure permanent secretary Peter May felt he had the public interest … Read more

“Statute of Limitations” would subvert the Belfast Agreement’s conditions on Troubles related murder

Tom Kelly on why the statute of limitations cannot be applied one-sidedly. In any case, he says, the provisions of the Belfast Agreement for a two-year sentence is an important mark of justice, which delineates the difference between innocent and guilty: The IRA didn’t act in the name of the Irish people and it justified its campaign with the most tenuous of links to an insurrection tradition from a different era. As a people, we were better at writing romantic laments … Read more

Government having trouble dealing with Northern Ireland’s shattered past…

Legacy is not as easy as it seems. My understanding is that without some kind of quasi-legal process which apportions guilt or innocence, it is simply not possible to grant an amnesty for all murders during the Troubles. This piece is telling (among other things, of a poorly briefed minister) of an unbalanced approach to dealing the past… “You just drivel on…I’m asking you a specific question” Watch as Andrew Neil rips into the Govt’s disgraceful hounding of British army veterans … Read more

Head of the HSE resigns over a catastrophic failure of empathy…

I’m slowly coming to the view that in our complex world, most of the problems we face are rooted in poor or inadequate forms of governance. Tonight, the head of Ireland’s HSE (a still embryonic form of the NHS) has resigned. It comes after a couple of weeks of constant pressure, and more importantly, heartbreaking stories of women who having been given an all clear with their cervical smear tests were only told after it became inoperable that their original test … Read more

Why the bitter tribalist form of “bi-communalism” provides no viable route to a united Ireland

The low-level (but pinchpenny) controversy over the playing of God Save the Queen at the Irish Cup Final raises the question of identity once again. Talk of symbols sucks a disproportionate amount of energy out of the NI room. At the height of the flags dispute, I wrote about how the middle ground still retains critical value. Then, I noted: …policy is little in evidence anywhere in Stormont. Nor has there been any clearly articulated ambition to focus on solving real world … Read more

Brexit outcome will likely be moderated by a highly cautious GB electorate…

Boats with EU, UK flags sailing in opposite directions

Lots of speculation on what kind of Brexit is in the offing. One Bel Tel writer reckons Arlene was softening on a Customs Union, but it was clear from her appearance on the Andrew Marr Show she’ll do nothing to upstage the UK PM’s negotiations with the EU. But it’s worth considering this note from Janan Ganesh in the FT… For a country that demands rupture with a “failed” liberalism, Britain keeps returning parliaments that guarantee — at most — … Read more

Nichola Mallon brings the sort of forensic scrutiny that’s vital to the future health of democracy.

Interesting to see that the Assembly’s absence produced an opportunity for an individual MLA to corner a particularly troubling issue that’s arisen in the Belfast Trust area. In this case, it was the SDLP’s North Belfast MLA and deputy leader, Nichola Mallon. It is too little understood, just how important this kind of visible inquiry into the conduct of public services (whether it be infrastructure or healthcare) matters to the health of democracy. Many issues (and I’m not just talking about … Read more

New claims that a UVF sniper in Springmartin flats was responsible for some Ballymurphy casualties…

Here’s a breaking news story worth keeping an eye on. It comes from a paramilitary source, so we will have to see how it pans out… In a potentially major development, loyalists who were active at the time have come forward with the new allegations. They approached an interlocutor to claim a UVF sniper located in the neighbouring Springmartin estate opened fire into Ballymurphy. It is understood these paramilitary veterans have provided the gunman’s name, alleging he was responsible for … Read more

“And we come back to the fundamental absurdity of having a referendum in the parliamentary state….”

Pulling back a wee bit from the madness that is local Republicans quoting the Northern Ireland Office as though it was some kind of Holy Writ, someone shared this on my FB stream tonight… Britain faces a simple and inescapable choice – stability and strong Government with me, or chaos with Ed Miliband: https://t.co/fmhcfTunbm — David Cameron (@David_Cameron) May 4, 2015 Then there’s this from Peter Hitchens on why despite being a dedicated Eurosceptic, he refused to take part in … Read more

Numbers are important, but government (and journalism) needs to find and act upon real stories too

Wicked problems always occur in a social context — the wickedness of the problem reflects the diversity among the stakeholders in the problem. — Jeff Conklin The weekend papers in Ireland are full of speculation based almost entirely on those most chancey of numbers, the latest polling figures. It leaves, even in an avid anorak type like yours truly, a sense that the world must be happening somewhere else. A friend, who is firmly ensconced inside the Irish political bubble, … Read more

On the need for a positive sum game on NI’s constitutional questions..

Some interesting and positive exchanges on The View on Thursday, on the overly stressed (and still largely hypothetical) question of a United Ireland.  First of all here’s Gareth Gordon’s analysis… And then there’s this strikingly focused and substantive discussion between Christopher Stalford, Colum Eastwood and Kellie Armstrong…. Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, … Read more

IT Poll suggests pre-Christmas Brexit euphoria around Taoiseach is starting to wear off

I’m generally not minded to bother readers with polls unless they tell us something new or challenging. Today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI contains some details I think are well worth noting. Here are the headline figures… Not a lot of change in the general pattern (note that independents still sit on shrinking ground), though as Damian Loscher notes Sinn Féin is up three points to 22%, its highest rating in this poll since early 2016. He also notes that: Sinn Féin … Read more

RHI Inquiry: “Dr Crawford I’m not inviting a comment from you, thank you.”

Coming back to Slugger (after a few weeks mostly out of the saddle), the most interesting item appears to be the RHI Inquiry. It is clear Sir Patrick Coghlin does not share the view of previous members of the judiciary that Stormont is a delicate flower. The BBC reports that he… …cautioned the public that if they heard something “sensational” in media coverage they should seek out the evidence themselves. He said the inquiry had gone to great lengths to ensure … Read more

“I have no ideological objection to Sinn Féin being part of a government.”

AFTER months of denials that FG would contemplate a coalition, here’s an interesting and telling story breaking today in Dublin… A Fine Gael minister has denied he was slapped down after declaring no objection to Sinn Féin in government, adding that many of his party colleagues share his view. Jim Daly said he spent two hours with Leo Varadkar on Wednesday and the purported controversy over his comments that Sinn Féin’s mandate was legitimate was never raised once by the … Read more

Blog writing #2: Quickness and the release of instinctive knowledge

“In the even more congested times that await us, literature must aim at the maximum concentration of poetry and of thought.“ –Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium Calvino’s lectures happened before Tim Berners Lee assembled the world wide web. So they do not anticipate particular forms or procedures but are meditations on how the writer might best humanly respond to the cumulative demands of the computer age. There were established clues as to how the world was moving. In … Read more

Blog writing #1: Lightness in the pursuit of actionable insight…

“I tried to find some harmony between the adventurous, picaresque inner rhythm that prompted me to write and the frantic spectacle of the world, sometimes dramatic and sometimes grotesque.” –Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium In the first of a series of short blog essays that explore different aspects of writing for the internet, my rough guide is a lecture series by the Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels Italo Calvino. Each one recommended different qualities he … Read more

Fine Gael’s constitutional sloppiness over the institutions of the GFA rooted in domestic concerns?

20130410 GFA 15

One of the effects of the poor networking of knowledge we’re getting at the moment is easily seen in the poor conceptual grasp, first of all, Sinn Fein and latterly Fine Gael, has on the institutional architecture. No matter how many times they repeat it, the BIIC cannot replace Stormont. Newton puts them straight… Last November, when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar first proposed reconvening the conference to address the Stormont crisis, he got this crucial detail wrong, telling the Dáil: “If nothing is devolved, … Read more

Blog writing: Meaningful inquiry matters far more than being “liked” on Facebook or Twitter…

Today, no one says, as they once did when Slugger took its first shaky steps as a blog back in 2002, that the internet has no effect on our politics, our communities or our society. But even then, readers were finding a voice and traditional gatekeepers fading. Roll on fifteen years no one doubts it. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica (CA) story one company has seemingly “undermined democracy, swayed elections, and enabled Brexit!” For good measure, it has also helped put a … Read more