A victims view on the appointment of the new Commissioner for Victims and Survivors…

I would like to thank the oFM/dFM for finally agreeing on a new Commissioner for Victims and Survivors.  It has been over a year since Kathryn Stone stood down from this position: a position which is an integral cog in the structures set up to deal with the needs of those of us most affected by the years of political conflict. The Victims Commission was hamstrung by the absence of a figurehead, as was the Victims Forum.  Both bodies could … Read more

“Mammy, why do we not have a flag on our house?”

Mairia Cahill writes on her impressions of visiting a bonfire site on the lower Shankill yesterday, and how a child’s eye view, unencumbered by the narrative framing of cultural matters, helped her see another side to the celebrations of The Twelfth. A week ago, I caused consternation amongst some of the hardline Loyalist community for raising the issue of flags flying from lampposts. I asked was there any “need” to fly large Union Jacks from in an effort to understand … Read more

Giving With One Hand and Taking More Away with the Other

In response to yesterday’s budget speech, the Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner, Koulla Yiasouma writes about its impact on child poverty YESTERDAY we saw a budget delivered that was trumpeted as a triumph for boosting earnings, but here in Northern Ireland tens of thousands of families are set to lose out. There was scant reference to Northern Ireland and no consideration to the differences in circumstances. With approximately 140,000 families in Northern Ireland receiving child tax credits the changes set out … Read more

Cuts lead third level education down the path of the privileged

Eugene Tinnelly is a founder member of the Student Poverty Alliance Group. He writes for us about the cuts in higher education Education should be free. Whether it be primary level or third level, your access to education should not be determined by what’s in your wallet but instead, by what’s in your brain. People will say that’s an idealistic way of looking at it but tell that to the people of Denmark who receive universally free education. Unfortunately the … Read more

Do we live too long? Science allows us to keep people alive longer, but is it the right thing to do?

“In a certain state it is indecent to go on living.  To vegetate on in cowardly dependence on physicians and medicaments after the meaning of life, the right to life, has been lost ought to entail the profound contempt of society.” Friedrich Nietzsche  1860. Not much fun that boy Nietzsche.  Certainly not much fun if you are as Yeats phrased it “old and grey and full of sleep and nodding by the fire” but then maybe you would be totally … Read more

Let us move past the age of ‘Stormont Shambles’ and work for an Official Opposition…

From Andrew Wooster, Deputy Chair of QUB Conservative Future… I recall reading the Stormont House Agreement on the 23 December 2014, and albeit a scepticism on Stormont’s ability to deliver, there was a feeling of genuine hope after the inclusion of a proposal for an Official Opposition. Since I have become politically minded, I have supported the introduction of such a structure to enable Stormont to work as a truly democratic system. The proposal was found in Article 29 of the … Read more

Time for a City Deal for Belfast…

Last week, LOCUS and I, hosted a City Deal seminar in Belfast which was addressed by Mr Richard Brown, Director of Regeneration Glasgow City Council. He explained that City Deals are agreements that have been negotiated between the UK government and 29 cities in the UK; the city gets new powers in exchange for greater responsibility to stimulate and support economic growth and promote job creation. Richard Brown detailed the negotiations he had with HM Treasury to negotiate the first … Read more

First do no harm – smoking and the ethics of vaping…

  Michael McBride is crystal clear; our Chief Medical Officer believes too many people are vaping and this is a bad thing.  In a recent TV interview he was unambiguous in his discouragement of e-cigarettes.    The views of CMO are important, people listen and people take note.  He’s not alone; the British Medical Association, WHO, European Commission and the Welsh Assembly are all censorious.   So are they right? One thing on which Michael McBride and I agree is the need … Read more

Francis Hutcheson. Lessons in well-being from the father to the Scottish Enlightenment…

  As we try to establish human well-being at the heart of social and economic policy in Northern Ireland, I think we must search for a relevant local heritage. In this way we counter those critics who suggest that something benign but grandiose and alien is being imposed from outside. So I will point out how the conditions for human well-being were the concern of one magisterial writer whose roots lay deep in the County Down countryside, just a few … Read more

Soapbox: How “closed minds house their own prisons”, or the illiberality of liberalism…

From reader Dean Sterling Jones… I disagree with what you say, but will fight to the death for your right to say it – if by “fight” you mean “surrender,” by “death” you mean “live comfortably” and by “your right to say it” you mean “your right to shut the hell up.” Don’t bother reading the revised sentence back, it makes little sense. But you get the picture. For some, the right to freedom of speech means little more than “the … Read more

With a third of the population in some areas of NI on antidepressants how do we deal with our massive drug over prescribing rates?

It was when a clinical psychiatrist expressed her concern at the number of people prescribed antidepressants that I realised it wasn’t just me.   She too thought the good people of West Belfast especially unhappy as the data was telling us some 30% of  the local adult population are on “happy pills”.   You might ask how did we get here and should it be acceptable that a third of any population are taking medicines to improve their mental health? When I … Read more

European Nature Directives may be the best tool we have to protect NI’s natural environment

Colum Delaney, Conservation Officer, Policy Advocacy RSPB NI. Just before Christmas I wrote an article for Slugger on the unprecedented cuts to the Department of the Environment’s budget, and in turn, the devastating affect that this would have across the environmental sector with the removal of the Natural Heritage Grants Programme. Whilst the exact ramifications aren’t yet clear, it’s certain that nature will once again be the loser. Fresh from this sustained attack, a new danger has emerged from Europe. … Read more

Amid all the political gloom, hundreds of new tech startups are quietly creating jobs, boosting exports and revitalising our economy…

I’m a Nolan addict. There, I said it. Recently Nolan Live clipped off an interview with Shaun Woodward where the former SoS spoke of the potential for Northern Ireland to return to violence if Stormont doesn’t get it together over welfare reform. Here’s that 28-minute interview with  Shaun Woodward in full: listen to ‘Ex-Secretary of State sounds violence warning over Stormont crisis #BBCNolan’ on audioBoom Nolan followed this up on his radio show the next day, asking ‘what if Stormont … Read more

Ulster says Yes to marriage equality.

Local poet, theologian, group worker and Leader of the Corrymeela Community , Pádraig Ó Tuama, wrote this blog about yesterday’s Marriage Equality march in Belfast and with his permission has allowed us to re-post on Slugger. Here is his story.  So yesterday was a beautiful day. Sun. Celebration. Support. Story. Hope. I gave a cúpla focail at the marriage equality gathering in the city. It was organized by the wonderful people at the Rainbow Project, Amnesty and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Over 10,000 … Read more

Why marriage equality should not become yet another expensive (and hysterical) NI drama

Siobhan O’Neill is a health psychologist and professor of mental health sciences at Ulster University. She is currently leading several studies on mental health and suicide in Northern Ireland and teaches on several of Ulster’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in psychology.  The obsession with the “naturalness” or otherwise, of particular sexual practices between consenting adults, may appear bizarre and laughable to onlookers. However such debates about the rights of minority groups and the right to discriminate on the basis of … Read more

Photo Gallery – West Belfast 1987 – 2003. Capture the present so those in the future can look back at the past…

The adage goes a picture is worth a thousand words and if that is true then I am looking over at at a cardboard box that contains an unseen, unwritten and unpublished 6 million word photographic document relating to life in West Belfast between 1987 – 2003. My name is Sean Allen and I’m a holistic therapist and I currently live in Waterford Ireland. Prior to this in 2003 I was a professional photographer in Belfast, covering Press, Advertising, PR, … Read more

Sinn Fein – No Longer Transfer Toxic

The Carlow Kilkenny by-election has shown that Sinn Fein’s traditional transfer toxicity might be a thing of the past. Personally I had a great weekend. I burst out of my closet 27 years ago at the tender age of 19 and landed in a very cold room for gays in the conservative Ireland of 1987. Over the last 27 years I have witnessed a phenomenal social revolution with the LGBT community becoming the most recent beneficiaries. However, I must admit … Read more

#MarRef: Homophobia has adapted to a changing Ireland; we cannot let it win

And our penultimate pitch comes from reader Oisín Hassan in favour of a Yes vote tomorrow. By Friday night the long slog of months of campaigning will be over, and by Saturday afternoon the outcome of one of the most momentous decisions the Irish people have ever been asked to make will be known. Opponents present marriage equality as a demand too far, dreamt up in the heads of ‘gay agenda’ pushers to force alternative ‘lifestyle choices’ on society. In … Read more

The right side of truth – Saying No to Same Sex Marriage

James D. is well known to many people on Twitter as @jdtips . Apart from reading odds and giving many betting tips he is also an advocate of a No vote in the upcoming referendum on same sex marriage.  Having heard the case for the ‘Yes’ vote he now lays out his case for people to hear. I believe that a vast majority of people who support same-sex marriage are well intentioned and people of good will. They are upstanding … Read more

#SluggerSoapbox: A compassionate plea for a NO vote in the #MarRef…

The following essay is from Kate Bopp, who makes a passionate pitch for voting NO in this week’s Referendum in the Republic. There is not a single jurisdiction on the planet that alters its constitution on the basis of emotive arguments that relate to adult romantic relationships. Constitutional change follows us and envelops aspects of our lives that go far beyond sentiments like love and sexual attraction. The melodrama being played out by the YES campaign is quite bizarre. There … Read more