The Lions of Lyon to the Princes of Paris

In restaurants, on the Metro, in the stands, the (Northern) Irish were unbeatable. They sang everywhere, all the time. A mix of contagious high spirits, irony and most of all lots of self-effacement they lit up the Parc Olympique Lyonnais on Thursday after having already given it all in the streets of the city. If you can sing, “Nous ne sommes pas le Brésil, nous sommes l’Irlande du nord, mais c’est pareil pour moi” that gives you the tone of … Read more

Nesbitt Opposition Statement Fails to Pass the Test

“We have now set sail down the path of opposition.” The words of Mike Nesbitt. Words not spoken today but eight months ago, as the Ulster Unionist Party first took the plunge into opposition. Eight months may have passed but little has changed, despite an election and a number of new faces taking to the blue benches of Stormont’s chamber. The murders of Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan, the latter sparking the party’s initial exit from the Executive, remain unsolved while … Read more

8 times Stormont failed to deliver

In three months, the Assembly elections will give voters the chance to have their say on who will sit in Stormont for the next five years. At this point, it’s worth reflecting on what has (and hasn’t) been achieved by the current Executive. Use the comments to have your say and add anything (good or bad) that hasn’t made this list.   1: Integrated Education – The signatories of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 pledged “to facilitate and encourage … Read more

Turning the tide against le Pen

On Sunday evening, the Front National’s marine blue wave crashed early on the breakers. Despite holding a first round lead in six regions, the party failed to win any contests in the second round run-off. Instead, the Republicans, formerly the UMP but still led by Nicolas Sarkozy, won in seven regions and the Socialist Party of current president Francois Hollande took control of the remaining five.     Dédiabolisation Although Marine le Pen has toiled to ‘de-demonise’ the party, the … Read more

Rogue ministers: Preparing for an election?

Not quite the morning after the night before, the Assembly sits tomorrow for the first time since Peter Robinson’s tactical, though perhaps not strategic, masterclass. The resignation of four DUP ministers on Thursday leaves many unanswered questions, literally, the most pressing of which in the short term is whether the current Assembly has a future as it descends into farce.

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Sinn Féin Block Welfare Reform Bill

Just when it seemed the Stormont House Agreement was sailing along nicely, a short strip of tarmac in North Belfast excepted, welfare reform has managed to scupper the show once again. This morning Sinn Féin announced they would put down a petition of concern on the final stage of the Welfare Reform Bill due to be debated this afternoon.   Discussions between the Executive parties and the Department of Social Development have been ongoing since the Stormont House Agreement in … Read more

St Mary’s: Accommodation or Integration?

At the heart of the debate on the future of St Mary’s College is a wider one about the future of education in Northern Ireland. How do we want our children to be educated? Do we want a system that prioritises parental choice between different sectors or one that maximises opportunities for children from different backgrounds to learn together? A number of recent developments highlight a lack of unified education planning by the Executive. Last Friday the DUP launched its … Read more

Stormont Talks: A Step in the Right Direction?

The Executive Parties have agreed a deal on welfare reform and have sent a paper to the NIO outlining an agreement. Earlier Martin McGuinness tweeted that there had been “a step change” in the atmosphere at the talks. Progress at the talks had seemed unlikely and there were suggestions that they could have drawn to a close today in the absence of signs of an agreement.

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Tuition Fee Increase Back On The Cards?

Tuition fees could be set to rise in Northern Ireland following budget cuts to the Department of Education and Learning. In an interview with the BBC’s Inside Politics, First Minister Peter Robinson suggested that fees could be increased. “There may well be an opportunity for us to look at tuition fees and see whether that cuts some slack to the universities.”

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Electoral Pacts: Just a Sectarian Headcount?

Have we lost a sense of perspective on the meaning of sectarianism? Both an electoral pact between the DUP and UUP and a students’ union referendum on a United Ireland have been labelled sectarian in recent days. It seems that increasingly entirely legitimate political actions by Nationalists and Unionists are written off as sectarian.

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Urgent Reform of Race Relations Legislation Required

The rise in racial incidents and crimes in Northern Ireland has been well documented.  Our last Racial Equality Strategy expired in 2010; and although work on the latest strategy started in 2007, the result—entitled A Sense of Belonging—was not launched by OFMDFM until June of this year.  Despite clear evidence that racism is affecting many communities, OFMDFM has neglected its responsibility to promote equality and protect individuals from discrimination by delaying the strategy’s publication. To succeed, any Racial Equality Strategy must clearly identify the steps that local and central government must take … Read more