Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government…

This morning I  came across this classic clip from The Monty Python and the Holy Grail film. Ever after 40 years, it is still a great send-up of our political system. Enjoy. A self-perpetuating autocracy King Arthur: Old woman! Dennis: Man. King Arthur: Man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there? Dennis: I’m 37. King Arthur: What? Dennis: I’m 37. I’m not old. King Arthur: Well I can’t just call you “man”. Dennis: Well you could say “Dennis”. … Read more

We can acknowledge Powell as a significant historical figure, without resurrecting his politics…

The decision by the BBC to broadcast Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech on Saturday was always going to be controversial. The speech, made by Powell 50 years ago on 20th April, had a long-term impact on British politics, and transformed the climate on race relations in Britain. In the speech, Powell spoke out against Britain’s liberal immigration laws, predicting dire consequences for the country if immigration was to continue unchecked. He also attacked the race relations legislation that the … Read more

Blog writing #2: Quickness and the release of instinctive knowledge

“In the even more congested times that await us, literature must aim at the maximum concentration of poetry and of thought.“ –Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium Calvino’s lectures happened before Tim Berners Lee assembled the world wide web. So they do not anticipate particular forms or procedures but are meditations on how the writer might best humanly respond to the cumulative demands of the computer age. There were established clues as to how the world was moving. In … Read more

The merits of Ancient Greek wisdom…

In 2014 I retired after forty years of university teaching, first in England and latterly at Queen’s. My subject was – is — ‘ancient’ history, defined in almost all British and Irish universities as the Mediterranean-centred world of the Greeks and the Romans. All very long ago now. In the Greeks’ case (my speciality), several centuries B.C. ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’, says the narrator-protagonist Leo at the opening of The Go-Between. “Classical” Greece … Read more

Blog writing #1: Lightness in the pursuit of actionable insight…

“I tried to find some harmony between the adventurous, picaresque inner rhythm that prompted me to write and the frantic spectacle of the world, sometimes dramatic and sometimes grotesque.” –Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium In the first of a series of short blog essays that explore different aspects of writing for the internet, my rough guide is a lecture series by the Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels Italo Calvino. Each one recommended different qualities he … Read more

A Snowball’s Chance in Rome: Climate Change Scientists Are All Agog at Cold Snap

‘The North Pole is warmer than much of Europe right now.’ That was a Tweet on Sunday (25.02.18) from lead climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, Robert Rohde. The big chill or ‘Beast from the East’ that has prompted warnings across the United Kingdom and Ireland is responsible for a deluge of colourful descriptions as climate scientists compete with headline writers to come to terms with the ‘wacky’, ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatic’ weather patterns in the Arctic. So what’s behind the drop … Read more

As the 20th anniversary approaches, the contrast is glaring between the commitment and success of the Good Friday Agreement and the neglect and failures of today

Bill and Hillary Clinton may register a no-show at a conference called to commemorate  the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement on 10 April, the Sunday Times reports. Organised by the impressively branded Senator George J Mitchell Institute For Global Peace, Security And Justice at Queens University, the conference line up includes every surviving key figure from the 1998 peace settlement except the incapacitated John Hume.  If Bill and Hillary scratch, Tony Blair may follow suit. And then … Read more

This Valentine’s Day, which politician do you secretly admire?

A bit of fun for Valentine’s Day. For me I can’t help but be fascinated by Jacob Rees-Mogg, politically I would agree with practically none of his political views but in these days of bland middle of the road politicians, it is good to have someone who holds their ground no matter no matter how unfashionable their opinions. This Guardian profile of the “member for the eighteenth century” is a fascinating read, some extracts: In 1981, at the age of 12, … Read more

Good news for Bombardier and Belfast as ITC rules against Boeing…

Good news for the workers at Bombardier tonight, as the US government’s proposal to slap duties of nearly 300 percent on it to protect Boeing’s commercial interests with US airlines was thrown out by the U.S. International Trade Commission: The 4-0 decision is defeat for Boeing, which had argued that Bombardier’s trade practices were illegal and harmful to its business. Bombardier argued that Boeing did not have a comparable plane to offer Delta. However… The dispute may not be over. Boeing … Read more

The Post – surefooted newspaper drama with obvious modern parallels

The parallels with 2018 are immense. The on-screen battle between politicians and the fourth estate may remind local audiences of politicians boycotting interviews with certain mainstream news outlets and harassed questioning the veracity and reporting of stories which are embarrassing. After nearly two hours, I also learnt that if you’re ever near the NY Times office, be careful crossing the road: nearly everyone in this film narrowly escapes being run over!

Social media and the problem of hidden identities…

Jamie Bryson is a well known anti-agreement Loyalist activist with an interest in law, politics and writing. He is author of “My Only Crime Was Loyalty”, an account of his role in the Union Flag protests and his subsequent lengthy and complex criminal trial. There is a great hypocrisy within Northern Ireland’s social media orbit. There is also a great vacuum whereby harassment, trolling and outright abuse is viewed as ‘lovable trolling’, so long as the ‘right’ people are targeted. … Read more

“Monolithic” NHS should back Northern Ireland Randox’s pioneering blood testing techniques

Randox  the global medical diagnostics company with principal research and manufacturing facilities in Crumlin Co Antrim, Dungloe Co Donegal, Bangalore, India and Washington DC has just been singled out for favourable mention by the Times science columnist Matt Ridley. He writes that its leading edge blood diagnostic techniques for cancer are not being adopted quickly enough by “a sclerotic NHS”. Randox was established in 1982 by its Managing Director, Dr Peter FitzGerald in Crumlin, and has since expanded globally. (see Wikipedia) … Read more

“Dissent is an imaginative act as well as a moral one….”

This long essay by Colin Murphy is essential reading for anyone who is even vaguely disturbed by the group mind approach to the reporting of politics and other matters of public import. He begins by focusing on Ireland’s dangerous predilection for consensuses and segues gently into how the liberal consensus is misdirecting journalist into rash and early judgements on supporters of Brexit and Trump.. Speaking truth to power is something we’re not very good at in this country and culture. … Read more

George Orwell and Twitter rage…

Interesting post over at The Idler about Twitter rage. In our current cultural climate, opinions have gotten very black and white, you need to pick a side. Nuance and shades of grey have gone out the window to be replacement by mock outrage. To quote the post: The periodic bouts of hatred directed at public figures on Twitter reminds me of Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate” in 1984. In Two Minutes Hate, the residents of Oceania watch images of the enemy on … Read more

Spain prevents Catalan independence leaders from taking office

The elections to the Catalan Parliament were just over 3 weeks ago but rather than lead to any settled political outcome in Barcelona problems look set to continue. Pro-independence parties again won an overall majority of seats but will the Spanish establishment permit all of those deputies to take up their seats and fulfil their mandate? Not likely. The Spanish Supreme Court has ruled that the former Deputy First Minister Oriol Junqueras must remain physically in prison on remand and may not … Read more

Archbishops and Admirals…

What do you suppose the following had in common: the American President Abraham Lincoln and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, the German Emperor Frederick (Friedrich) III, the author of Household Management, Mrs Isabella Beeton, the impressionist painter Édouard Manet, the post-impressionist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the gangster Al Capone, the composer Frederick Delius and the jazz pianist Scott Joplin, the Irish authors Oscar Wilde and James Joyce, the revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, the dictators Benito Mussolini and Idi Amin, the billionaire Howard … Read more

Courage of Kingsmills Victims Defied Sectarian Divide

Reconciliation statue Photo by Amanda Slater

Much ink has been spilled about the sorry Barry McElduff/Kingsmills loaf saga. Susan McKay’s analysis in Tuesday’s Irish Times is one of the most insightful, but bleak, contributions. It’s worth reading her full text, which brings her to this conclusion: The absence of reconciliation has never been more starkly apparent, and as usual, those most hurt in the past are hurt again. One paragraph in McKay’s article jumped out for me, because though tragic, it demonstrated for me that there … Read more

Donald Trump and the pathology of leadership…

Dame Iris Murdoch, the Dublin born novelist, won the Booker prize for fiction in 1978 for The Sea, The Sea. Her final novel, Jackson’s Dilemma, was published in 1995 and was met with a muted response from the critics. She was subsequently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease which was confirmed on post-mortem after her death in 1999. Subsequently, a textual examination of The Sea, The Sea, Jackson’s Dilemma and her first novel, Under The Net, showed that her vocabulary was considerably reduced and ‘commonplace’ in her final novel, but extensive … Read more

The death of Peter Sutherland robs us of a key bridge builder between the UK the EU and Ireland

Peter Sutherland who has died aged 71, was an Irishman  bigger internationally  than any Briton of his time.

Read moreThe death of Peter Sutherland robs us of a key bridge builder between the UK the EU and Ireland

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London