Could the skills system hold the answer to Northern Ireland’s productivity problem?

In Northern Ireland we’re well-used to hearing bad economic news. What sits underneath much of this comes down to productivity – the value of what we produce by every hour of work. In fact, productivity here is almost a fifth lower than the UK average, and whilst the UK’s productivity rates are lower than some of our key competitors, which in itself is a significant structural problem, in Northern Ireland we have some of the very worst productivity rates in … Read more

Where are the safe spaces for our young trans and non-binary people?

Brian Smyth (Green Party rep. for Lisnasharragh) International Youth Day was Sunday 12 August and the theme this year is, “Safe spaces for youth”. There seems to be an International Day for everything, but as a Youth Worker, I believe it’s important to use these opportunities to tune into the issues that affect young people growing up, particularly those disadvantaged by poverty and inequality. The notion of safe spaces got me thinking about my safe spaces growing up. It made … Read more

External Association and the Brexit Dilemma

The Brexit negotiations have been plagued with political point scoring and little ‘real’ progress since the onset. There is a whirlwind of media noise surrounding any development when in reality the only concrete thing to emerge recently is the Chequers deal. This serves to embed the perception that Brexit is an intractable enigma, a foreign and absurd entity the likes of which we have not seen before. In reality, this kind of complex negotiation that fundamentally seeks to secure bi-lateral … Read more

Carnegie UK Trust continues its founder’s mission of wellbeing

This Saturday marks the 99th anniversary of the death of Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-born philanthropist whose legacy and mission of improving ‘the wellbeing of the people of Great Britain and Ireland’ continue to this day through the work of the Carnegie UK Trust. The Trust’s latest initiative aimed at furthering Carnegie’s goals was announced in June, with the naming of the three local authorities set to participate in the Embedding Wellbeing in Northern Ireland project. The Community Planning Partnerships working … Read more

Clann na Poblachta: A Cautionary Tale for Smaller Parties

By Paul McIlvenny The silly season has begun. As the parliamentary recess began and TDs returned to their constituencies to touch base and escape the parliamentary heat for the heat of summer, the political commentariat were predictably consumed by pre-election claim and counter-claim. As the summer draws to a close, political fever around the October Budget will become pandemic, with new temperatures reached as the budget signals the end of the current Confidence&Supply agreement that holds Fine Gael and their Independent … Read more

Free conference at Queen’s University Belfast. Global Conflict: The Human Impact – 23-24 August 2018…

The conference, convened by Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Chicago, will be addressed by a range of distinguished speakers who will share their expertise on the Northern Ireland peace process, the peace process in Colombia, and the international refugee crisis, among other themes. Confirmed speakers include United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi; former US Senator George J. Mitchell; former US Assistant Secretary of State Anne C. Richard; Dominic MacSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide; and James Robinson, Reverend … Read more

Mike Nesbitt “You cannot watch that Parade and not be moved to join the groundswell for a new, modern, pluralist, inclusive Northern Ireland”

Former UUP Leader, Mike Nesbitt was at the Belfast Pride march on Saturday and we asked him for some thoughts on the parade. What struck me about Pride 2018 was its air of relaxed confidence. It’s a while since I have observed a Belfast Pride Parade in any great depth and the change is remarkable. Back in the early days, it seemed to me many taking part felt a need to force themselves and their issues on the agenda with … Read more

If Sinn Féin are serious about rights and equality, they must prioritise Petition of Concern reform

By Eoin Tennyson In last year’s election cycles, Sinn Féin ran a campaign based on “equality, respect and integrity”, called for the “implementation of previous agreements” and promised “no return to the status quo”. Marriage equality featured alongside Irish language legislation as a cornerstone of the party’s campaign. The rhetoric was enthusiastically endorsed by almost 225,000 voters. In the negotiations that followed, it proved to be just that: rhetoric. February’s so-called “draft deal” revealed that Sinn Féin were in fact … Read more

New course at Stranmillis University College. Key players from October 1968 discuss the events of half a century ago…

Stranmillis University College’s Lifelong Learning team are launching a major Living History project next month to mark the half century of the civil rights march in Londonderry on 5 October 1968 which will include live interviews with key people who were involved at the time. Among those who have agreed to take part are  Bernadette McAliskey, Brid Rodgers, May Blood, Eileen Paisley, Austin Currie, John Kilclooney, Stratton Mills, Kenneth Bloomfield, Danny Morrison and Billy Hutchinson.  Shirley Williams, appointed by Harold Wilson to be the first … Read more

Happy Days Festival does Beckett and Brexit (1-6 August)

Waiting for Godot on the border, billboards and cross-border chess: the 6th Happy Days International Beckett Festival takes stock ahead of Brexit. The first line of Samuel Beckett’s famous play reads: ”Nothing to be done“. The characters go round in circles, both verbally and physically, are disorientated, are forever waiting for something to happen but it never does. They want to move forward but instead remain fixed in the same spot. Sound familiar?

Traditional feasts – Ulster Fleadh 2018

Reading David McCann’s account of his first visit to the Museum of Orange Heritage, I was reminded of the fascination and challenge of learning about other cultures and traditions, especially here, where the divide between the two dominant traditions has been particularly evident in the last number of weeks. With over 25,000 visitors expected to flock to Castlewellan in County Down this weekend, for the celebration of traditional music – from Sean-nós to Ceilí Bands, from strict competition to impromptu … Read more

Trusting Westminster to deliver on the border is a pipe dream, but who else is there?

Patch Thompson is a postgraduate student at Queen’s University, specialising in Northern Irish and Labour politics and Anglo-Irish Relations. Last week, during his first political appearance since resigning as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that, to his surprise, the question of the border in Ireland, which had previously been ‘assumed on all sides to be readily soluble’ was now ‘so politically charged as to dominate the debate’. Johnson’s shock at what anyone with basic comprehension skills … Read more

Abstentionism lends itself to British involvement in Irish affairs

Colin McGrath is the SDLP Chief Whip and MLA for South Down Sinn Fein’s abstentionist policy, no matter the size of its mandate, like all party policy positions, is not above criticism. The catastrophe that is Brexit has awoken a new era in political history. Its implications will be far-reaching and its affects will be felt long after we exit the European Union. Any political party that has the power to change the course of this impending shipwreck should, and … Read more

Perspectives on Change from a Dublin-dwelling northern Prod

I am a Northern Irish Protestant who has lived in Dublin for the past twenty five years. I am proud to be from the Protestant community and proud to be from Northern Ireland. But I have never been so proud to be part of a society, as I have been to be part of the Republic of Ireland in recent years. A society that voted, myself included, in favour of marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose. I have a friend … Read more

Reflecting on motherhood and transgenerational trauma…

Today I’m preparing for my 11th meeting with the World Mental Health Survey initiative, in Harvard. At my first meeting in 2005, Professor Brendan Bunting, Dr Sam Murphy and myself were planning the NI study of Health and Stress (NISHS), the largest study of mental health in NI, and part of an incredible initiative, which studied the rates of mental illness, treated and hidden, in countries all over the world. In 2005, we were having discussed whether people here would … Read more

Theresa May claims to be a proponent of gay rights, and no doubt she is, in other parts of the UK. In Northern Ireland, however, she is countenance to their denial

By Eoin Tennyson A British Government survey of 108,000 LGBT individuals has affirmed that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is still alive and kicking across the UK. Two-thirds of those surveyed fear holding their partner’s hand in public while five percent have been offered controversial “conversion” therapy. These results may shock some in England, Scotland and Wales; but they are all too recognisable for those of us here in Northern Ireland. The Tories’ LGBT Action Plan … Read more

SOAPBOX: A Cry from the Heart

232 Presbyterian ministers and elders respond to decisions taken at June 2018’s General Assembly with a statement – ’A Cry from the Heart‘: As teaching and ruling elders in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, we acknowledge, and indeed share, the profound sense of hurt, dismay and anger currently being expressed in the wake of decisions taken at our 2018 General Assembly. This level of feeling is unprecedented in our pastoral experience …

C’mon Arlene – Take action and start the journey of reconciliation with our community

Malachái O’Hara is the Green party rep for north Belfast, and LGBTQ activist. He was the vice chair of the equal marriage campaign and sits on the board of a suicide prevention charity.  On Monday 18th June, the Belfast Telegraph carried a front page headline that Former First Minister and current DUP leader Arlene Foster would attend an LGBT event. Despite repeated years of invitations by local LGBTQ groups, Arlene, as part of her continuing charm offensive (a well received visit … Read more

Young People Not Immune to Political Deadlock

Paul McCusker is the SDLP Councillor for Oldpark Twenty years on from the Good Friday Agreement, the ceasefire generation – for the most part – live a peaceful and prosperous life, free from the violence and the heartache of the past. There is however a forgotten generation; a generation who still feel the weight of living in areas controlled by paramilitaries, whose parents and grandparents lost their lives in the conflict, who live in communities barricaded by “peace” walls, who … Read more

Soapbox: Connal Parr on Mythmaking, Identity and Ulster Protestant Cultures

Dr Connal Parr is Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in the Humanities at Northumbria University. His research emphasises the interconnectedness of history, politics, and culture. His book ‘Inventing the Myth’ viewed local political developments and recent history through the prism of dramatists and writers and was inspired by his doctoral research. On the evening of Tuesday 22 May, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs generously sponsored an event on the themes of my book Inventing the Myth: Political Passions and the … Read more