Belfast Rapid Transit (Glider) Phase 2 announced

This week, Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon launched the public consultation for Phase 2 of the Belfast Rapid Transit (Glider) system.  I think this is a welcome development and will improve connectivity, access to and uptake of public transport in the city.  I remember when Glider was first launched on the east/west route a few years ago. Before it got off the ground, it was fashionable to dump on it (a common pattern for public transport projects on this island). …

Read more…

In England crops are left to rot as there are not enough workers to pick them…

I deplore waste, especially food waste. With so much hunger in the world, it is a scandal how much food is wasted in rich countries. They estimate the average UK family throws out £700 worth of food a year. But what of the food that never even reaches the shops? Euronews reports on the crops left to rot as there are not enough workers to pick them. From the article: Fruit and vegetables are being left to rot in England …

Read more…

Slugger event at John Hewitt Summer School: What’s good for the economy, good for the environment and good for people?

Slugger O’Toole returns to the John Hewitt International Summer School in Armagh next Wednesday evening (28 July at 7pm) with a panel discussion looking at the triangle between economy, environment and people. Is Northern Ireland keeping those three aspects in balance? Are we destroying people and the planet in the name of prosperity? Can we ensure that wellbeing, sustainability and justice benefit everyone? I’ll be joined by Steven Agnew, Dawn Purvis and Joanne Stuart to mull over what’s good for …

Read more…

Water rates or hosepipe ban: why NI Water funding model needs to change…

I was on Nolan to discuss a hosepipe ban that’s imminent. In England Severn Trent has asked people to conserve water, but there’s no ban. Water services in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic have been investing massively in their systems. That’s not only brought leaks down within the system but allows them to keep up with ever rising demand as populations grow across these islands and demands shift up and down with the seasons. Meanwhile NI Water (as it …

Read more…

Planning policy vital to a greener, more prosperous Northern Ireland

Andrew Muir is the Alliance MLA for North Down  Planning policy rarely makes the national headlines but directly touches upon the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland. Whether it’s an extension in your local area, a new housing development around the corner, or a major new business development that could provide jobs for thousands, planning matters. As an MLA at the Northern Ireland Assembly, planning issues are never far from the top of my inbox. Earlier this month the Department …

Read more…

Is the new found love of the great outdoors waning?

One of the positives of the pandemic was more people discovering the pleasure of the great outdoors. As there was nothing else to do more people went out walking in their local parks, forests and beaches. Walking in nature is great for your emotional and physical wellbeing and best of all it’s free. Out for a stroll at Shaws Bridge, it was noticeably quieter compared to a few months ago, all the more surprising considering what a lovely day it …

Read more…

For those who wish to see Derry city prosper, I recommend a trip to the South Holland city of Gorinchem…

There are two types of people in this world; those who wish to see Derry city prosper and those who wish to see it fail. I’m in the former camp and as such I’m unimpressed with those in the latter camp, whether their M.O. be by means of bombs or political sabotage (just covering all the incoming whataboutery bases). For those firmly in the prosper camp then might I recommend a trip to the South Holland city of Gorinchem? (Somehow …

Read more…

Electric Vehicles are the future, and we need to invest in our charging infrastructure now…

By Rónán Davison-Kernan from EVANI. The group was formed in 2016 and earlier this year transitioned to become the Electric Vehicle Association Northern Ireland, a not-for-profit community interest company. Their two main aims are to represent the interests of electric vehicle users in Northern Ireland and to promote EV use here. Electric vehicle sales in Northern Ireland tripled between 2019 and 2020, going from 579 units to 1,680 – despite the pandemic. To put it another way, there were almost …

Read more…

Climate Dolmens Response to the Wildfire in the Mournes…

Michael Donnelly is a member of the Dolmens Climate Network Dolmens Climate Network, in south County Down, wishes to speak out in the aftermath of the massively destructive wildfire we just experienced in the Mournes. Our community right now is sad but also cross, frustrated, and determined that we all take this seriously and do something different. Thousands of acres of upland heath is burnt and we will never know how many animals have perished with their nests destroyed during …

Read more…

Our Bees Need You!

Outside my window there’s a crowd of delightful daffodils, their heads dipping and bobbing in the breeze. We have a steep bank that surrounds our garden, up till now it’s been good for nothing except weeds. Last September I bought several bags of bulbs and scattered them in hopeful handfuls, pressing them down into the newly mulched bank with my booted foot. Here I am five months later looking out on an array of yellow heads that smile sunshine at …

Read more…

The case for a Climate Change Bill.

Ian Humphreys is the Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful  Climate change is a global challenge, that demands a global response. When we are faced with such a huge problem, that is vast in its complexity and contains many different required responses, it can, for a small population like Northern Ireland, feel like the cost of inaction is relatively small. However, in this piece I want to outline why we cannot wait to act and why having a local …

Read more…

To 2031 and beyond … Neil Hegarty’s vision of this island in ten years’ time #imaginebelfast

Talking to writer and novelist Neil Hegarty about the talk ‘2031’ he will deliver at next week’s Imagine! festival, imagining what this island might look like in a decade and asking whether we’re prepared for the political, societal, environmental changes that will surely have a huge impact on the way life is going to play out?

The State of Us … Previewing the seventh annual Imagine! Festival of Ideas and Politics (22-28 March)

A quick rummage through the Imagine! Belfast programme coming up between 22–28 March. Under the strapline of The State of Us, there’ll be exhibitions, workshops, lectures, film, comedy, music, spoken word, lectures, theatre and quizzes. Voices from at home and abroad. The festival isn’t afraid to challenge. It doesn’t expect participants to agree with everything that is said. It’s about making people think. Widening their horizons. Broadening their understanding. Developing their empathy. Helping them figure out why – and if – they truly believe the hunches and biases they may have been living with for a lifetime.

Urban North Belfast – free webinar series today and tomorrow…

Today and tomorrow there are 3 online webinars around improving the urban environment in North Belfast. If you are free they should be an interesting watch. Reconnecting North Belfast to the river Tuesday 2nd March 2-4 pm   The webinar introduces the alternative urban solution evolved for North Belfast and the road interchange.   Tony Fretton – architect London Terri McKeown – Sailortown Regeneration Mary Black – CBE – Public Health professional Michael McGarry – architect Professor QUB Ken Sterrett – retired QUB planner Intro …

Read more…

Mountains and molehills

St. Valentine’s Day, 2021, and my house is creaking as it slowly reverts to type – a square wooden box with wooden walls, wooden floors and a wooden staircase – after the trials of last night’s earthquake. 200km from the temblor’s epicentre, knickknacks fell off shelves, ceiling lamps pendulated and pulses raced. At Magnitude 6 for us, it was our strongest quake ever, having missed the big one in March 2011. Rugby World Cup 2019, and our windows were shuttered …

Read more…

How do we improve our towns and villages?

One of the (many) disappointing realisations that came to pass during the Time of Covid is just how many people don’t like being in their own home for too long. The place where they’ve chosen to live (or at least settled into). The place where they raise their families or invite their friends round. As such, people all over Europe were almost literally running for the hills (or forests or cottages or seaside houses) in order to get away from …

Read more…

I look up to the sky, it’s a glorious uninterrupted blue…

It’s the 3rd of January. It’s 4.25pm. I’m standing in the garden looking up to the sky and it’s still daylight. The simple stretch of daylight minute by minute, day by day is enough to cheer me. January always feels like the beginning for me, not because of the turn of the calendar or New Year Resolutions (I don’t believe in them) but because the darkest days of winter are behind me and I can look forward to days lengthening …

Read more…

With a bit of investment and creativity, we can dramatically improve our outdoor attractions for the benefit of locals and tourists alike…

One of my ways of staying sane throughout this pandemic is going out for a daily walk. It is free, it keeps you fit and it good for your mental health. What’s not to like? A lot of people have the same idea and all our outdoor facilities are full of people enjoying the great outdoors. We are very lucky here in Northern Ireland that we have many beautiful places to visit right on our doorstep. Over the past few …

Read more…

A Christmas Bee and Earwax Candles…

My two hives are quiet, they’re like damp, derelict buildings. Winter is a constant cycle of helpless concern for beekeepers. Several times a week I put my coat on and take a hot cup of coffee outside and watch until I drink my cup dry. If I’m lucky I see at least one bee return to a hive. A single bee is enough to reassure me that a colony is still alive and I go happily about my life for …

Read more…