SNP revolution means it’s now make or break time for the union

By Ben Wray, a journalist with CommonSpace, which is an online Scottish news, analysis and opinion website. They used to say if you pinned a red rosette to a monkey in Glasgow people would vote for it, such was the overwhelming dominance of the Labour party in Scotland’s biggest city. Labour is not just a political party in Scotland – it has been symbolic of Scotland’s political culture for decades, a way for people of identifying who they are, spanning generations of … Read more

Who is Topping the Social Media Poll

Peter Purcell works in Marketing and writes a platform for us on politicians who used social media particularly well during the recent election campaign. As campaigning is now over lets leave politics to one side and take a look at who is winning on social media and leading the way for their party colleagues to follow. I have picked out three candidates that have caught my attention, but would be keen to hear who has impressed you. Naomi Long In … Read more

Sex workers’ rights in Northern Ireland

With the DUP once again sliding into a comfortable majority and the law to further criminalise sex work due on June 1st, there has never been a more pertinent time to look at sex workers’ rights in Northern Ireland. We don’t have rights, but that’s about to change. As sex workers on the front line we know the damage that the forthcoming law will do. Sweden has the highest number of rapes in Europe, sex workers are being made homeless, … Read more

There’s an election on. Do you fancy a bet?

One of our long term commenters Tochais Soirai gives fellow readers a few last minute tips if you are thinking of having a last minute flutter on the election. Thinking of having a bet in the last days of the campaign? If you do, you’ll be part of a long tradition. The earliest organised political betting is often cited as the elections to the Great Council of Genoa in 1515 whilst in Britain political betting became very popular in the regency … Read more

Confused who to vote for? Ask the app…

Are you confused? Don’t worry, it’s a natural state of affairs. Particularly so at election time. You are faced with as many versions of reality as there are political parties. In deciphering the various stories told by the parties, and figuring out which story you like best, it would be handy to have a little machine to help you. Rest easy:  researchers at Queen’s University have come up with a user-friendly ‘app’ to help members of the public decide who … Read more

Education – Exam culture put to the Test

I taught English and Drama in local schools from 1979 to 2005. I have great memories of the classroom and enjoy seeing some of my former students go on to flourish in the wider world. In some ways education got rather better during my years as a teacher. There was more accountability, and I guess that that probably helped raise standards amongst some teachers who lacked drive and competence. And new subjects such as A level Theatre Studies, which I … Read more

The Bloody Weather, Meerkats and Schnauzers: A Short Introduction to Canvassing.

It rained on and off throughout Sunday. Not as bad as Saturday, but not weather for putting up election posters. Yet I found myself quite excited about it. I’m forty-one, so I have long since got over the joy of being allowed to stay up late; so why exactly was I getting excited about driving round east Belfast with a step ladder, plastic sheeting and a bucket load of cable ties? It has been a few years since I was … Read more

How Would Rory McIlroy Vote?  And why that’s important.

Predicated as it is on avarice and greed and standing as a monument to the necessity for mandatory wealth re-distribution, the most useless supplement of the year reappeared last week. The Sunday Times Rich List likes to rank all the people in the country who have more money than you. And expects you to pay for the privilege of reading about them. Not surprisingly, a certain young County Down sports celebrity –always keen to reassert his affinity with his place … Read more

#SluggerSoapbox: It’s about time women were celebrated, but we’ll have to do it for ourselves!

The following is from Orlaith Hendron, who is a lobbyist in the Women’s Sector in Northern Ireland. We all know people are struggling these days; we only have to go outside and take a look at the house next door where our friends used to live, and know that redundancy meant they couldn’t afford rent. We only have to see ads in church bulletins about food banks and know that there won’t be enough there to help everyone who needs … Read more

#SluggerSoapbox: Marriage Equality and the creation of families by same sex couples

Nick King is a former business man, councillor on Bournemouth Borough Council, chairman of Dorset Conservatives, member of Police Authority Board. Watching the #marref debate as an Englishman is an interesting experience. In common with so many things in Ireland it seems in part an exaggerated version of what has gone before here in England. At other times it’s like watching our own experiences through a slightly distorted mirror. And as the comments made last week in South Down by … Read more

A Terrible Beauty is Born!  Post – Conflict Fiction & Responding Creatively to the Past.

We can all think of memorable novels that have had their conceptual and narrative core located within ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Still more material has been mined through adaptations of autobiographies or memoirs from ‘combatants’ of the conflict. Plots have generally been driven by tense dénouement involving betrayal and counter -betrayal by security forces and terrorists. Wars don’t end when the fighting stops of course. And there have been a number of more recent crime novels that have sought … Read more

What Politicians Could Learn from Brand Communication

Peter Purcell works in Marketing and writes a platform for us on how politicians can use online media better for the General Election. As we build up to another election I look through the various social platforms hoping to find a politician that gets it, someone that understands what they are doing, someone with a clear plan. I am disappointed with what I find. Yes there are those doing a decent job, but 49% of adults in NI use a … Read more

Game of Thrones vs real life: 5 ways fact is worse than fiction

Guest blog by Anna Neistat, Senior Director for Research, Amnesty International The long-awaited fifth season of Game of Thrones begins on Sunday 12 April. Filmed in Northern Ireland (and elsewhere) and broadcast in 170 countries, the show shocks viewers and generates controversy with graphic violence, especially against women. Yet many aspects of real life around the world today are worse than the mythical Game of Thrones world of Westeros. [spoiler alert: reveals plot lines up to the end of season 2!] … Read more

Martin: I believe that we can build a safer, fairer, more confident community in Northern Ireland.

The Towards a Better Future conference starts today in Belfast. Writing for Slugger, the Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI, Stephen Martin, writes about policing and hate crime Since May 2014, we have arrested 95 people and charged 46 of them with offences linked to hate crimes in the Belfast area. This sends out a clear message that those who commit hate crimes will face consequences. However, none of this will address the underlying causes of the hatred which we … Read more

Ireland – a world innovator in deliberative democracy?

In December 2012 with the creation of the Convention on the Constitution, Ireland became a world innovator in deliberative democracy. Like similar international deliberative forums on constitutional reform (British Columbia, Ontario and the Netherlands) the Convention included randomly selected citizens. However unlike them it also included politicians from both parts of the island. Meeting over the course of 9 week-ends, the Convention concluded its work in March 2014 having made 38 recommendations, 18 of which, it is estimated, will require … Read more

Let’s collect what we know, and identify what we don’t know about prejudice and how it challenges peaceful relations in our communities.

Ahead of the Towards a Better Future conference which kicks off in Belfast on Thursday we have a guest post by Professor Mike Hardy, Director, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, who writes for us on the topic We do not seem to be very successful at living together in our complex and changing communities. And we need to be much better at it if we are serious about creating safe and secure places for our … Read more

#SluggerSoapbox: An electoral pact may be pointless but it’s all political Unionism has left…

Our support for the DUP in East Belfast should ensure an additional pro-Union MP for the City of Belfast in the next mandate. – Mike Nesbitt I am calling on all unionists to unite behind these agreed candidates and maximise the pro-union voice in the House of Commons. – Peter Robinson What’s the point of the latest electoral pact between the DUP and UUP? If the two party leaders are to be taken at their word then it is to … Read more

Randomocracy in Northern Ireland

There are three crucial ingredients for a high quality democracy: a very large hat, a pen and lots of small bits of paper. Write the name of each citizen in the land on a bit of paper, put all the bits of paper in the hat, close your eyes and pluck out 500 names from the hat. Write to each of the 500 saying: “Congratulations, you have been picked as one of the 500 people who will run the country … Read more

Clowns to the left of them, jokers to the right. Paramedics stuck in the middle with you…

We get the inside track from a paramedic about the ambulance strike… I was glad to have the opportunity on Friday to re-post my article from last November where I described some of the difficulties currently faced by Paramedics in Northern Ireland. I felt it important to provide some context of the proposed Ambulance Service strike on Friday as the verbal jousting between NIAS managers and union spokespeople that day left me bemused to say the least. After NIAS cynically broke the strike … Read more

Hanna: International Women’s Day is an anniversary to mark the contribution, struggles and victories of women…let’s not lose site of it as a political event or of the road left to travel.

Continuing our series of articles, SDLP Councillor for Balmoral, Claire Hanna writes for us about her experiences and the barriers facing women in society today International Women’s Day brings annual soul searching about the lack of women in politics, which is both a symptom and cause of our dysfunctional politics. Evidence presented by the Economist newspaper shows that where legislatures have more women, they spend more on public services, bring forward more progressive legislation and have more balanced participation in … Read more