The end of a series

The latest series of Holywell Conversations podcasts began with reflections on the Good Friday Agreement, amidst fears that Northern Ireland’s devolution was over, and that series has now completed at a time when government has actually resumed. Over the series’ 18 episodes two themes have been examined – the challenges holding back reconciliation within our society, and the specific problems that continue to face the North West region. In the first episode, we heard from three people at the table …

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A Deposit Return Scheme is coming and we should not fear it.

Dr Ian Humphreys is the Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful An ambitious new initiative has come into force in the Republic of Ireland on February 1st that should be welcomed by all who work to change behaviours that can improve our environment for the better. The Deposit Return Scheme will see a 15 cent levy added to every aluminium can and plastic bottle sold in the Republic of Ireland. Customers can keep their empty cans and bottles for …

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Farming in transition

Agriculture is worth around £1.7bn to the Northern Ireland economy, 4% of total economic activity, according to figures published by the Department for the Economy. This compares to farming comprising just 1% of the UK economy – so farming is worth four times more to our economy, proportionately, than to the rest of the UK. But it is a sector that is in transition and worried. Post-Brexit trade deals agreed by the UK with major agricultural economies Australia, New Zealand …

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Connecting the North West

Derry and Donegal are not only marginalised by their geographic position on the periphery of the island of Ireland, but they are also very badly served by the transport infrastructure. They are not alone in this: there are similar complaints from Sligo, Fermanagh and elsewhere in the West. After a long campaign, parts of the A6 road between Derry and Belfast have been upgraded – though it is still not a dual carriageway between Dungiven and Castledawson. It was back …

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Flaming July – the evidence is clear that climate change is happening…

trees on fire

Only the most devoted conspiracy theorist could deny climate change given the devastating events of recent weeks. Spring was marked by deadly fires in Canada, terrible floods in Northern Italy and even an unfamiliar heatwave in Northern Ireland. Now things have got even more deadly, with awful new fire outbreaks in Greece, Italy Algeria and Tunisia. And a severe worsening of ice melting in the Antarctic. Meanwhile, the drought and loss of agricultural land in the Horn of Africa is …

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Net Zero – Northern Ireland’s Secret Weapon

David Morrow is a public policy graduate from Belfast who used to work at Stormont. He is writing in a personal capacity. So you’ve passed legally binding climate legislation – what next? It’s probably a bit early in the life cycle of national climate targets for government ministers to be producing self-help books – in most cases, this decade is the first time that we’re actually going to see politicians being responsible for meeting targets that they’ve set. In the …

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Trashing the environment

Just five miles from Derry’s city centre, on the suburban edge of the Waterside, is the site of one of the worst environmental crimes in UK history. It has been described as Europe’s largest illegal waste dump, which may be an exaggeration, but it is certainly one of the very biggest. The Mobuoy waste dump runs across both sides of Derry’s Mobuoy Road. It covers 116 acres and contains one million tonnes of illegally buried rubbish. While the company running …

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Previewing the ninth annual Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics #imaginebelfast

Imagine festival 202

The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics is seeking to provide ‘brain food’ to all and sundry over seven days in March. The packed programme is a veritable feast of ‘ideas for a better world’. Now in its ninth year, the festival has over 130 in-person and online events, and the majority are free. While politics is often to the fore, politicians themselves aren’t usually platformed at the non-partisan festival’s events. But this year, one event will be exploring …

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Early reversal of previous Minister’s policy as fares rise scheduled

Enterprise crossing Craigmore Viaduct near Bessbrook

It shouldn’t actually surprise us in the slightest, and for once I can’t entirely blame the DUP’s collapse of the Assembly. On 25th October, John O’Dowd announced as Infrastructure Minister that Translink fares would “remain frozen for another year”, but today it was announced that they would rise by an average of 7% from 6 March. The Secretary of State made a statement to the House of Commons on 24 November 2022 saying he recognised “that steps will also need …

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The Land of Shipbuilding Saints and Scholars: A Reflection on Ireland’s Maritime History

brown wooden ladder on green grass field under gray cloudy sky

The recent announcement that Harland & Wolff will once again produce ocean-going vessels comes as welcome news in a region steeped in maritime history. Belfast’s historic shipyard will perhaps remain most famous for building luxurious transatlantic liners for the White Star Line, including the Olympic-class trio – RMS Olympic, HMHS Britannic and, of course, RMS Titanic. If the medieval hagiographies are to be believed, however, these behemoths were far from the first vessels to leave Ireland’s shores bound for the …

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An optimistic story about climate change…

field of green trees

In the first week of January 2023 it is not easy to be optimistic. There is no obvious end to the cruel, grinding Russian war against Ukraine. Economic recession looms for the West. Climate change targets are being missed all over the place. Closer to home, the Protocol deadlock continues and hope of any real reconciliation in Northern Ireland has all but disappeared. So for my first blog of the New Year I am going to write about a novel …

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Nuclear Fusion power – how long will we have to wait ?

Atom

Just before Christmas, it was announced for the first time that researchers at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US had successfully achieved “ignition” within a nuclear fusion reaction. This generated a lot of excitement in the press, not all of it well-informed, so I thought it might be interesting to explore this topic in more detail. What is nuclear fusion ? Why was this news so significant ? When will we begin to benefit …

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Review of ‘The Ghost Limb’ by Claire Mitchell: Finding the Spirit of 1798

The Ghost Limb: Alternative Protestants and the Spirit of 1798, is a meditation on the journey of its author, Claire Mitchell, through what she calls the ‘1798 dreamtime.’ Mitchell, who was born into Northern Ireland’s Protestant community, relates how she began to feel like Irish aspects of her identity and heritage had been cut off. For Mitchell, this loss manifested itself like a ghost limb, experienced as an existential ache for Irish language, landscape, and culture. Perhaps it goes without …

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Nuclear Fusion Energy Breakthrough…

purple and pink plasma ball

Fusion energy has been promised for decades now. I remember watching BBC Horizon documentaries about it in the 1990s; it was always ‘just around the corner’. But now it seems we have an actual breakthrough. For the first time, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California could generate more energy than it took to start a reaction. Fusion is different from nuclear fission. It is a very clean energy source, with none of the pollution and greenhouse gases …

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Coldest night in two years with temperature of -9C…

adult short-coated dog sitting snow while wearing orange and black hat

Temperatures in Katesbridge in Co Down hit -9C overnight. We have been lucky with a mild Autumn and Winter so far, but this week the temperature will be near zero for most days. I hope you all got a fill of oil and are wrapped up warm. I can recommend an electric blanket to take the chill off your bed. I also bought a dehumidifier last week. Our climate is exceptionally damp, and a dehumidifier does a wonderful job of …

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Review of ‘Beauty through Broken Windows’ on the World Day of the Poor

Today is the ‘World Day of the Poor’, observed in the Catholic Church since 2017 when it was established by Pope Francis. It’s a day to remind Christians of their obligations to follow Christ’s example to pursue justice for the poor. A new book, Beauty through Broken Windows: Empowering Edmund Rice’s Vision Today, edited by Aidan Donaldson and Denis Gleeson, is an excellent resource for learning more about how Christians around the world are living out such a vision. The …

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Be Careful Where You Tread – A Cautionary Tale for Halloween…

birds on sky

Not quite as large as a used tea bag but much the same shape and colour, the tiny thing lay, helpless, on the concrete just below my front doorstep, ideally positioned for an approaching foot to unknowingly flatten it. If it hadn’t been for the ever-questing eye of a visiting artist friend it would never have been spotted in the midst of our morning’s comings and goings. Bats have been visiting our house since the first night we came to …

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Hard borders on the Island of Ireland are nothing new…

Hiking to the top of a rocky outcrop right before a heavy rain storm came in and caught the very last glimpse of sun making way through the clouds.My work is 100% community-supported. You can fund my next photography adventure at Patreon.com/rvrmakes

Half a billion years ago the land mass that makes up the island we recognise today as Ireland belonged to two primordial continents separated by an ancient ocean. The northern portion belonged to the continent of Laurentia, now preserved as parts of North American, while the south belonged to the supercontinent of Gondwana, which would form large parts of Europe, Africa, and Australia. About 470 million years ago, the process of plate tectonics caused these two ancient continents to drift …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 3 : Can it be weaponised ?

Nuclear explosion mushroom cloud

Following on from my previous articles on how nuclear power works, and why we need to rethink the dangers posed by it, it’s time to talk about the other safety-related concerns that are often raised in the debate about the viability of nuclear power. Can a nuclear power station explode like a nuclear bomb ? What happens if a nuclear power station finds itself in the theatre of military conflict, as is currently happening in Ukraine ? To deal with …

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Can we save Belfast City Centre?

Before the pandemic, I visited a client’s office in Belfast City Centre. They were on the 7th floor of a building near City Hall. While waiting in reception, I could look over Belfast and marvel at all the construction work. At that time, Belfast was buzzing with many new companies investing in the City Centre.  I did not go near the City Centre during the pandemic as I had no reason to. I had seen reports on social media that …

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