Dealing with alcohol – how the ambulance service picks up the pieces…

We get the inside track from a serving paramedic… Given that we are now over the festive season but still very much in the grip of the annual winter pressures it was interesting to read the article by the Chief Executive of NHS England regarding drunk tanks (officially Alcohol Intoxication Management Services, Safe Havens or Alcohol Treatment Centres), as well as the associated social media reaction. Winter is traditionally a time when we see an increase in ambulance call-outs and hospital admissions … Read more

We are so used to seeing Northern Ireland politics as a zero-sum game that it’s hard to acknowledge a political deal which might benefit everyone.

Jon Tonge is a Professor of Politics at the University of Liverpool. He is the author of The Democratic Unionist Party: From Protest to Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press. We are so used to seeing Northern Ireland politics as a zero-sum game that it’s hard to acknowledge a political deal which might benefit everyone. That might partially explain why the endorsement of Friday’s Phase 1 Brexit agreement. Amid the ambiguity and verbiage what was tentatively and sensibly proposed was a … Read more

Can the DUP square all its circles before time runs out?

In the aftermath of the DUP’s slick, on message conference last month, Arlene Foster’s comments on the border and customs union were – unsurprisingly – headline news. This week, after a chaotic round of statements, leaks and interviews from the Irish and British governments, the DUP and the EU, they bear reexamining. On the border, Foster rejected the idea of a hard border between the North and the Republic. She, quite rightly, identified this as a step towards economic chaos. … Read more

Relationships: The Bridge between Principles & Practicalities

“We are committed to partnership, equality and mutual respect as the basis of relationships within Northern Ireland, between North and South and between these islands” – Belfast / Good Friday Agreement 1998 Last month, I had the immense honour of speaking at the international youth conference One Young World: 1500 young leaders from 196 countries meeting in Bogota, Colombia to explore how we collectively resolve some of the greatest global challenges. Despite the many complexities we continue to face in … Read more

EXCLUSIVE POLL: Unionist supporters content with East West post #Brexit border controls…

The dilemma facing Brexit negotiators on the ‘Irish border’ question is how to retain an invisible, frictionless, ‘soft’ North-South border in Ireland and somehow avoid the seemingly inevitable reality of the emergence of a ‘hard’ border if the UK leaves the single market and the customs union. Squaring this circle is a little tricky. It’s hard to have a border and not have a border all at the same time. Borders are a bit like boiled eggs, either hard or … Read more

Nationalism needs the inspiration so desperately needed in these early days of that better nation.

Aaron Murray, political researcher working in London. He is also on Twitter @aaronmurray87 Engraved on the Canongate wall of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood is a phrase Alasdair Gray described as ‘inspiring but not boastful’. ‘Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation’ it reads. Widely attributed to Gray, it is the creation of Canadian poet Dennis Lee from his exploration of citizenship, Civil Eligies. In recent years it became a credo of the Scottish … Read more

The Holylands: a manifesto for urban renewal

Emmet McDonough-Brown is an Alliance Party Councillor for Botanic. Since my election in 2014, I’ve devoted a fair bit of time and effort to the challenges faced by the Holylands and its community of settled residents. I won’t rehearse the full and inglorious history of how we arrived here but the experiences that residents have endured are just awful. I consider myself an optimist though (which is why I joined Alliance!) and it has always been my view that the … Read more

For Westminster, Northern Ireland still isn’t a priority.

Patrick Thompson is a postgraduate student at Queen’s University, specialising in Northern Irish and Labour politics Last week a strange piece appeared on the news agency Bloomberg’s website about the Irish dimension of Britain’s decision to leave the EU. It was titled ‘Irish Border Throws Unexpected Hurdle to Brexit’. The notion that there is an open question around what Brexit means for the UK’s only land border isn’t groundbreaking. But the idea that this is a surprise most definitely is. … Read more

Time to bring the citizen back in?

As Steven Agnew of the Green Party calls for a Citizens Assembly for Northern Ireland, Robin Wilson writes about the idea which has been under development by a group of citizens and voluntary sector organisations facilitated by the Building Change Trust over the past 6 months. Northern Ireland seems once again to have reverted to a default state of political dysfunctionality, with months and potentially years of further reluctantly-assumed direct rule from Westminster looming, with its associated ‘democratic deficit’. While … Read more

SOAPBOX: Can the economy be Irish? #ESRCfestival

SOAPBOX – The OU’s Dr Leslie Budd recalls economist George Shackle’s observation that to be an economist one has to be an anthropologist, political scientist, mathematician, philosopher, and sociologist with an interest in economics. It is these characteristics that are vital in creating a narrative and conversation about Brexit. Irish storytelling could help address the challenge facing us.

Economics as Storytelling – will Northern Ireland live happily ever after?

Economics is seen as one of those complex subjects, up there with nuclear physics, as simply too difficult to understand and something only economic experts can comment on. However, this is not always the case. While presented and viewed by most as objective, scientific and complex, economics can actually be viewed as a form of storytelling. What we need to do is translate the language into one that is easier to understand and the best way of doing this is … Read more

Colum Eastwood: Sinn Féin and the DUP are within hours of buying us all first class tickets to Direct Rule

Colum Eastwood is the Leader of the SDLP There are times when silence is golden and there are times when it is anything but. For weeks now the Stormont talks have operated under a cloud of secrecy feeding the frustration of everyone. There are only so many press releases that the NIO can put out which talk about ‘some progress’ or ‘significant gaps’. There are only so many press conferences that can be staged with everyone saying the same thing. … Read more

The march of the mummies and the mental health implications of maternity discrimination

On October the 31st, people are marching in cities across the UK to demand recognition, respect and change for working mothers. The well-being of mothers is important because mothers matter as human beings and citizens. However there is now a wealth of evidence showing the importance of parental mental health for the wellbeing of the child across the lifespan. We now know that many of the epigenetic processes that switch on and off DNA, and therefore programme future stress regulation … Read more

Young Luther , A new play by Philip Orr. This Sunday the 29th Oct – Admission free…

When I was asked by friends in a  church in Bangor if I would compose a play for them about Martin Luther, I knew it would be a challenge. Firstly, how could I handle such a big topic? Love him or loathe him, Luther is one of the most significant figures in church history. The story of Protestant faith is impossible to understand without looking at him. Even a three-hour epic wouldn’t cover his life adequately. Secondly, how should I … Read more

SOAPBOX: Suicide – the public health crisis of our times

Carrie Montgomery is deputy chief executive at Contact NI. If 90% of Northern Ireland patient deaths by suicide were assessed as no or low risk during their last contact with services, she asks in this post why the Public Health Agency is being constrained to just provide services for people at high risk of suicide?

Nesbitt ” We must learn to resist the agitation of those who simply view equality as a tool to impose their ideology and take ownership of the values that will secure a fair future for all.”

Mike Nesbitt is the former leader of the UUP and is the current MLA for Strangford How do you think you would react if you heard that a unionist leader – Robin Swann, or Arlene Foster, for example – was refusing to deal with the NHS waiting lists, or the funding crisis in our schools, unless everyone else agreed to an Ulster Scots Act? I know what my response would be and it wouldn’t be pretty. Yet that’s what Sinn … Read more

Demand for legal access to medical cannabis is pushing the debate ahead….

Pearse Donnelly, a musician, activist and medical cannabis patient. Regional co-Chair for United Patients Alliance here demonstrates how Cannabis debate is taking off even in politically becalmed Northern Ireland . Two decades in and almost forty weeks into Stormont’s mobocracy, cannabis becomes a unifying force between all major parties in Northern Ireland. All while our nomadic First and deputy First Ministers quibble at an ill-fated Conservative Conference. The representatives in support of this fresh controversy would surely that agree our … Read more

Bertie Ahern: “It is worth looking for a moment at what we are in danger of losing…”

Bertie Ahern, former Taoiseach and someone who has spent a political lifetime in the art of political negotiation gave this speech on Brexit to the Kennedy Summer School a few weeks back. This draft is published with the permission of both the Summer School and the author. The uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the Brexit negotiations is unsettling, and likely to last for some time to come. Brexit has opened up for the first time since the 1990s a major … Read more