Stuck in the Past – difficult choices to be made #feile18

Three years ago, the same hall was venue to a conversation between the then deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the PSNI Chief Constable, again chaired by Brian Rowan. That night, the atmosphere was electric. This afternoon, the conversation seemed less extraordinary, certainly less unexpected. Unfortunately, the political stalemate has become as normal yet unacceptable as the stretched patience of victims and survivors who seek truth and information about incidents during the Troubles.

RTE’s celebration of John Hume feels like nostalgia for a time that has gone

RTE have just screened a documentary In the Name of Peace; John Hume in America by Maurice Fitzpatrick which the film maker has kindly drawn to my attention. Being in London I cannot access it yet nor have I read his accompanying book. But from the YouTube trail, this is a major celebration of John Hume’s life and work. Anybody who was anybody is in it, led by Clinton and Blair, although Jimmy Carter was not quite so dazzled.  As … 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

Did Peter Robinson blunder into the border poll debate too early?

Coming late to the Peter Robinson speech at Glenties and its aftermath, I’m struck by two elements of it, one of which has been hardly picked up. In the text I was offered, the discussion of a border poll which overshadowed the rest of it didn’t appear at all. Tommie Gorman of RTE has explained. I chaired the Friday evening session (27 July) in the Glenties Highlands Hotel where Peter Robinson was the guest speaker. The references to a united Ireland … Read more

Mike Nesbitt “Rather than Carson’s dream of a government for all, we are hurtling into the record books for the length of time we have had no government for anyone”

Mike Nesbitt has released a response to Peter Robinson’s comments on a border poll; “A couple of months ago, Peter Robinson said he was pulling the pin out of the grenade – a curious analogy for a man making his inaugural speech as an Honorary Professor of Peace Studies. He was referring to the manner in which a Border Poll might be called and conducted, an issue he returned to in great detail last week. It is time to explore … 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

So when can we get married? An update on the campaign for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

We are coming to the end of another packed and exciting Pride week in Belfast. I’ve been struck by how many rainbow flags are billowing in the wind across Belfast city centre. From small newsagents to bars to coffee shops – it seems to me there are many more than previous years. I’m taking it as a sign of progress. I love Pride week, because it is the time of year when we hear the voices of people we don’t … Read more

Has ‘The Quiet Revolution of Pope Francis’ reached Ireland? Review of New Book by Gerry O’Hanlon

The Catholic Church in Ireland looks like it’s in trouble. It’s still reeling from the clerical abuse scandals that have shaken its foundations over the better part of two decades, and it’s struggling to cope with the challenges of the island’s extraordinarily rapid secularization. A new book by Fr Gerry O’Hanlon, The Quiet Revolution of Pope Francis: A Synodal Catholic Church in Ireland? (Messenger Publications, 2018), argues that there is hope that the Catholic Church can reform itself. When Francis became pope … Read more

Ged Killen: “This is personal. Your rights are my rights. An injury to one, is an injury all.”

Watch back or read Ged Killen MP’s lecture for Amnesty NI as part of Belfast Pride, delivered on Thursday evening at Queen’s University. Speaking on ‘Marriage Equality – Winning at Westminster’ the Scottish Labour MP’s address was followed by a Q&A with William Crawley which included an update on the local legal cases surrounding marriage equality as well as discussion about efforts at Westminster and the stalled NI Assembly.

Mary Lou’s U Turn: Under pressure, most SF ‘policies’ are rarely binding for more than a day…

Most of the speculation about a united Ireland has become pervasive and tendentious in the extreme, driven, no doubt in part, but some of the extreme emotions unleashed by the whole Brexit process. Or as a Peter Robinson put it in Donegal, “shaking that [Brexit] tree was almost certain to cause abundant fallout”. It is further exaggerated by the fact that those elected to the Stormont have absolved themselves by refusing to take office. Without an Assembly in Northern Ireland … Read more

#Pride – More of us could count ourselves included in a day that has much to say about inclusion.

Belfast’s first Pride parade took place in 1991 and was attended by 100 people.   In 2017, more than 5,000 took part in the parade.  Pride is growing in Belfast, it isn’t as easy to ignore as the old days. The gamut of reactions ranges from staunch disapproval to unrestrained joy.  We might easily guess the typical profile of those with extreme responses. But there’s a multitude existing in between, composed of many different people with many different feelings.  Gut feelings … Read more

Parliamentary arithmetic may provide a bulwark against a “no deal”…

So if the hard realities being expressed in Dublin are changing around Brexit, so too in Westminster, where the arithmetic remains eye-wateringly tight. An old friend once told me that with any 50/50 decision as things inevitably get harder, the slim positive majority melts and the will to carry it forward gets much tougher maintain. Very quickly. The last general election delivered just such a scenario. No one has a mandate to undo Brexit, but no one has the electoral … Read more

Jamie Dornan helps launch new pancreatic cancer action group

A new community group to promote better outcomes for pancreatic cancer sufferers launched today at the Mater Hospital in Belfast. Pancreatic cancer is a major health issue for Northern Ireland, with around 270 deaths per annum.  It has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer – rates which haven’t changed markedly in 40 years. Pancreatic cancer is on the increase, with experts predicting that it will be the second biggest cancer killer in the US by 2030. Local … Read more

The Downside of Success – Coping with our increasing tourist numbers…


Over the past number of years, Northern Ireland’s tourism industry has maintained a steady growth and our visitor attractions have continued to become more popular than ever. These high levels of tourism are a relatively new phenomenon for the region and perhaps not one we have yet learnt how to deal with properly. In 2017 there were an estimated 4.9 million overnight trips in Northern Ireland, the highest estimates on record. Many of our most popular visitor attractions are purpose-built … 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

Humanity in the midst of Brutality: Review of Martin Magill’s ‘The Poor Clares in Belfast, 1924-2012’

In 2012, the Poor Clares closed their monastery in North Belfast after 88 years in the city. As an enclosed order, it might have been expected that the nuns would have had little impact on the world outside their walls. Fr Martin Magill’s new book, The Poor Clares in Belfast, 1924-2012 (Shanway Press), tells a different story. The Poor Clares in Belfast explores how the nuns’ ministry of prayer, presence and listening endeared them to the local people. They were … Read more

Is the Taoiseach trying to ‘silence’ Micheál Martin over his handling of Brexit before December?

An interesting couple of pieces in the Sindo at the weekend, regarding the confidence and supply arrangements between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and the growing tensions in their confidence and supply arrangement. Before Christmas, average polling showed little difference between the two parties: both averaging around the 30% mark in November. There’s been slippage since for Fianna Fáil: the party most divided over the abortion referendum. The terms of the arrangement are such that Fianna Fáil’s support for the government should last for … Read more

Unionists could lose out if they don’t talk about a united Ireland

Many unionists have been given a ‘lundy bollocking’ over the past few years but it’s bizarre to see it happen to Peter Robinson. Robinson’s crime was to suggest that unionists should prepare for a united Ireland.  He said, “I don’t expect my own house to burn down but I still insure it because it could happen.” Robinson’s words have generated outrage with unionists like Sammy Wilson and Reg Empey lining up to tell the former First Minister to put a … Read more