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). …

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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 …

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We can’t keep putting off investing in NI Water…

As you might have noticed it has been pretty hot the past few weeks. All this heat is not great for our water supplies and NI Water have warned that of supply shortages and a potential hosepipe ban. This happens most years, but it is a good reminder that we take water for granted. NI Water has been warning for years that we need to invest in our water infrastructure. There is the obvious part of the service – the …

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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 …

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A chastened DUP which is willing to learn from its own mistakes might be the gift Donaldson needs. But is it?

Yesterday I was asked to do a couple of things in the media. One was on Andrew Neil’s new GB News station (which I can’t actually watch live) and the other was for The Irish Times Inside Politics podcast (starts about 33 minutes in): On both occasions I was asked to share my thoughts on the NI Protocol and the challenges facing the DUP leader elect, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. In preparing for both, a number of thoughts occurred to me …

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Home Truths: A coherent case for investing in more social housing

It’s been fifty years since the establishment of the Housing Executive in 1971. Here, the organisation’s current Chairman, Professor Peter Roberts, delivers some home truths on social housing, arguing a partnership for change must be established to open the gates to a more positive future for housing in Northern Ireland. Over the past eight months, since Minister Ní Chuilín’s ambitious announcement on the future of housing and Minister Hargey’s commitment to the revitalisation of the Housing Executive, I’ve been asked …

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Community Wealth Building

Concentration of the retail and consumer services sectors in the hands of a limited number of multinational corporations sucks wealth out of local communities and into the hands of shareholders based elsewhere. So should the response be to build the local economy by supporting independent businesses based in those localities, while maximising the spend of public and other anchor institutions in their local communities? That is the approach adopted through ‘community wealth building’, often termed ‘the Preston model’. Preston is …

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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 …

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Tackling Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Apartheid – Part 2, The Solution…

Read part one here… It is clear that Northern Ireland has a stark east-west divide in transport infrastructure. One which fails to fully reflect its population distribution, and raises questions of sectarian policymaking and a Belfast-centric nature to governance here. It is also clear that the era of car dominance in urban areas is slowly drawing to a close worldwide, which Northern Ireland will inevitably catch up with. Climate change and a desire for more liveable towns and cities will …

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Tackling Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Apartheid – Part 1 – The Problem…

Infrastructure has become a hot topic in NI since the London government established a ‘Union Connectivity Review’ (UCR) to recommend projects to strengthen links between the UK’s constituent parts. Since then the media has been consumed by the possibility of a physical connection between NI and Scotland – first in the form of a bridge and more recently an undersea tunnel, christened the ‘Boris Bridge’ and ‘Boris Burrow’ (though I would suggest a more appropriate title should incorporate the name …

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Despite its problems the Protocol puts opportunity in the hands of NI’s politicians more than ever before

The frequent gracelessness of some DUP MPs (Sammy Wilson’s charmless swipe at Robin Swann this week was typical) means their critics often experience a pleasant frisson when sinking the boot as its many petty failures rise to the surface. But I don’t really get the party’s (or indeed wider unionism’s) flirtation with nixing the Northern Irish protocol. Even as tactic. I do see there’s a case for arguing that some activity, at the very least, sends a signal to the base that …

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Boris’s burrow? Boring in more ways than one.

I do not promise an absence of any further puns in this piece. So last Sunday the big news was: we can’t put a bridge over the top of the Beaufort’s Dyke, so sure we’ll just build a tunnel round it.  It’ll only be 25 miles long. Except… The Channel Tunnel is 37.92km (23.57 miles) from the English coast under Shakespeare cliff to the French coast at Sangatte.  It takes a further 9.14km (5.68 miles) to reach the tunnel mouth …

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Northern Ireland, the Protocol and our bumpy ride on the vagaries of market regulations…

It’s been a mad few weeks. As Taoiseach Micheál Martin has noted in an interview with the BBC’s Fergal Keane yesterday, that ramping up has not just come from within unionism… “I worry about the post-Brexit noise from EU member states towards Britain and vice versa. I would tell one or two of them that they need to cool it, dial it down. “This isn’t an ongoing battle between the UK and some of the bigger beasts of Europe. Let’s move away …

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Republic is discovering that only vaccines not lockdown can provide an end to #Covid_19

Just three weeks ago an Irish Examiner headline writer told us that whilst Ireland’s Covid cases are rising, “we are still in a good position compared to our neighbours”. Not that you’d guess that from the complete funk the Dublin media just now. The 14-day incidence rate for infections in Ireland is currently 80.4 per 100,000 which is the second lowest in the EU. Only remote Iceland is doing better with a rate of 49.3 cases. Yesterday The Irish Times noted that …

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“Spending serious southern money in the North is a signpost few will miss.”

It’s worth sharing some of the detail from this excellent piece from Newton Emerson in the Irish Times on why (and how) the Shared Island Fund is a muscular declaration of tangible politics, rather than more the ‘painless waffle’ of promises that never get delivered… The Shared Island initiative has been allocated €500 million over five years, an apparently trivial sum compared to Stormont’s £13.8 billion annual budget. However, the funding is mainly for capital projects and is equivalent to …

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#TheReset Podcast: “Why can’t government do things (anymore)”?

Ed Straw has been in and around government and state led projects for a large part of his later working life. He has also been involved with the UK Labour Party using his trained engineer’s eye to look at how things work. His new book throws new light on the problem of poor “government agency”. Powered by RedCircle In it we cover: Governments are hooked on a systematic approach which assumes society remains as simple as it once was. This results …

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#TheReset: NI’s opportunity lies in attracting new people as well as new jobs

Today I spoke with my old friend and Lagan College alumnus Shane Greer, who now owns and publishes Campaigns and Elections Magazine and lives and works in Washington DC about whether in order for Northern Ireland to get a good reset we need to think more globally, not to mention bigly. The main impetus for the start of the discussion was his recent Reset essay on what he sees as a live opportunity to exploit the new home working arrangements …

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North/South Cooperation now has a budget…

This week the Irish government unveiled their budget with an emphasis on housing and all of the social issues with flow from that most basic social need. What peeked my own interest was a commitment to providing €500 million to cross-border projects. The ‘Shared Island Initiative’ is a much publicised personal project of the Taoiseach Michael Martin. RTE are reporting that the new unit within his department will be overseeing this expenditure. In terms of the overall Irish budget this …

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Time to reset our approach to energy efficiency of homes to support a green, climate-resilient recovery…

By Dr Patrice Cairns, Policy Manager, RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors). You can follow her on Twitter. This year, for many, their home has become not only their shelter but a place of work, of homeschooling, of social space and respite. It can be assumed that there is undoubtfully now a greater appreciation of the intrinsic link between wellbeing and improved indoor health. However, if we spend more time at home, we will typically use more energy. The built …

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