The Unfreemaning of Bob Geldof from the City of Dublin…

Fascinating conversation in council last week on whether Bob Geldof should lose his Freedom the City status, because, well, he handed to them, so they calculated that they have no choice but to accept it and strike him from the record. Formally, you can see the Lord Mayor and the CEO are being procedurally correct. But Cllr Paul McAuliffe points out outside the public conversation, there is no record of the conversation between Geldof and council officials. From Bob’s point … Read more

Trump’s Election Victory One year on…

A year ago, I took a little flak in a Slugger article for suggesting Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 election might not have been won fairly and squarely. It was pointed out that Trump scored a decisive victory by the Electoral College rules, and it is fair to say, (as he did), he would have fought the campaign differently had it depended on winning the popular vote. While the story as yet to fully unravel, we know much more … Read more

Brexit and the British Empire

A spectre is haunting Europe. No, not that one. An uglier, messier one by far; the spectre of Empire. And if Europe is the haunted house in this metaphor, the UK is the creaking stairway where the spectre appears, Northern Ireland where you fancy you can hear it whisper in your ear. Brexit has shone a light on a lot of long hidden corners of the British psyche, none so alarming as the anti-Irish sentiment that has appeared since Taoiseach … Read more

Going back to Zimbabwe

The drive way was exactly as I remembered – albeit a bit overgrown. There was a hut by the gate and a woman emerged, rubbing her eyes. It was the holidays but the dilapidated buildings gave the impression the school had been closed for many years. The driver spoke to her in Shona, gesturing at me – she used to be a student here and wants to have a look. She looked at me suspiciously and the gate was opened. … Read more

You have to admire the Russians. They are the ultimate internet trolls…

Seems Theresa May is getting annoyed at Russian meddling in Western politics. From the BBC: Senior Russian politicians have dismissed accusations by Theresa May that Moscow has meddled in elections and carried out cyber-espionage. On Monday night, Mrs May accused Moscow of “planting fake stories” to “sow discord in the West”. She said Vladimir Putin’s government was trying to “undermine free societies”. The Russians hit back with: #UK Prime Minister @theresa_may on @Russia: “We know what you are doing”. We … Read more

Prescription Medicines in the Dock – Who is to blame for the increasing drug deaths in our society?

Ireland bucks the UK trend in drug overdose deaths; here they are more likely to result from “prescription medicines” than “illegal drugs”. Coroners locally implicate; tramadol, oxycodone or fentanyl in overdose more frequently than in England, Scotland or Wales where deaths are mainly linked to; heroin or cocaine. One implication is that prescription medicines are more readily available and, extending this logic, doctors and pharmacists are in some way involved; if we did our jobs better drug deaths would be … Read more

To solve the Catalan crisis, pay homage to Britain

The Catalonian campaign for independence is a phenomenon of our times,  like the Scottish. They both claim they are ancient entities enjoying sufficient cohesion to go it alone and find their own balance between globalisation (the great big world now closer to all of us than ever) and self sufficiency ( provided it comes under the safety blanket of the EU).  They seem to think they deserve as of right, easy acquiescence and the blessing of a good deal from … Read more

Why you should learn how to blog in Derry (ahem, the Slugger O’Toole way)

I hate telling people how to do things, particularly blogging (just ask my fellow writers on Slugger). For a time I thought it was going to be an idea whose time had largely been superceded by microblogging sites like Twitter and Facebook. However next weekend I’ll be in Derry (yay!!) for a day-long course in which I’ll be exploring the core underlying value of blogging, and why it still matters. Broadly, here’s six reasons why you should take such an … Read more

Young Luther , A new play by Philip Orr. This Sunday the 29th Oct – Admission free…

When I was asked by friends in a  church in Bangor if I would compose a play for them about Martin Luther, I knew it would be a challenge. Firstly, how could I handle such a big topic? Love him or loathe him, Luther is one of the most significant figures in church history. The story of Protestant faith is impossible to understand without looking at him. Even a three-hour epic wouldn’t cover his life adequately. Secondly, how should I … Read more

Belfast man sentenced in Germany for 1996 Provisional IRA attack on army barracks

A timely lesson from the German authorities on dealing with Northern Ireland legacy issues…  Having successfully extradited 48-year-old James Anthony Oliver Corry from the Republic of Ireland in December last year, the Belfast man has now been convicted and sentenced for his role in the Provisional IRA mortar attack on a British army barracks near Osnabrück, Germany, in June 1996. From the Irish Times report A Northern Ireland man has been convicted in Germany of attempted murder for participating in an IRA attack on a British army barracks in the … Read more

Catalonia – “Propaganda thrives in a crisis.”

Guardian columnist Natalie Nougayrède is hoping for a Pedro Almodóvar inspired ending to the wild, dark comedy that characterises the current impasse between Catalonia and the rest of Spain.  From the Guardian article However, the 1 October referendum was hardly a model of sound, democratic expression. Only a minority of Catalans took part (turnout was 43%), and its organisation ran counter to Catalonia’s own legislation. The two laws that led to it were voted through without the two-thirds majority the Catalan charter (the Estatut) requires for … Read more

A cautious welcome for Bombardier’s apparent rescue

While  the news about Bombardier is very welcome, a note of caution is also due. Boeing is not taking it lying down. Again, though Bombardier are saying that  a new C-series production line in Alabama means  expansion of   C-series production as a whole,  there are bound to be fears  that  Bombardier/Airbus  may eventually switch some  production  to Alabama  at the expense of  Belfast if sales forecasts don’t materialise. However the Chinese are said to be interested in the project. And … Read more

“The Laws of Nature Need Not Apply Here” – Ophelia is a sign of things to come

  The Northern Ireland administration’s late and confused hurricane warning to school children and young people parallels local political attitudes to climate change. By failing to take climate change seriously even when the evidence is hitting us in the face we are disregarding the rights of our children and young people. The late, confused and inefficient warning on Sunday evening to students and parents is like a metaphor for the slow, confused and ineffective response that government has made here … Read more

Did ‘moron’ Trump suggest a ten fold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal?

Things just seem to go from bad to worse for the beleaguered leader of the free world. This week’s omnishambles is the revelation that the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a moron. NBC news reports: President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room. Trump’s comments, the officials … Read more

“One of the things the independence movement hates most is that left-leaning people are against them…”

With the separatist Catalan government claiming that 90%, of 43% of the electorate, voted for independence, and ahead of a week of further uncertainty for all of Spain, the BBC’s Patrick Jackson gives a voice to some young Catalan Spaniards – some of whose views may, or may not, sound familiar…  ANYhoo… Here’s a lengthy excerpt from the BBC report. “We feel Catalan and Spanish and I’m not going to allow independence supporters to take my culture away,” says David. … Read more

Bombardier’s CSeries US crisis gives NI an early taste of “Free Market” realities..?

I’m not sure there’s much an Executive could do in these circumstances, but the significance of the US threat to highly skilled jobs in Bombardier in Belfast was for once not lost on the news in the rest of the UK. It even made the headlines on Radio 6 Music this morning. The US Department of Commerce has clobbered 220% after it ruled that a $1 billion investment from Quebec and nearly half that amount in loans from the Federal government was used … Read more

Where do Syria and Assad go from here?

The war in Syria has been drawing to a slow, violent end for almost two years now. Since Russia started to increase its military support for the Assad regime in September 2015, there has almost been an inevitability that the government forces would hold out and eventually reclaim most of the country. This was accentuated by the deafening silence from most Western nations as rebel held Eastern Aleppo was levelled by the Russian air force. To the ‘moderate’ rebels groups, … Read more

Misogyny bullying and brutal violence; what is there to worry about in the Middle East?  

My eldest daughter, a primary school teacher, returns to Qatar this weekend as do hundreds of young people from these shores supporting the education systems across the Middle East.  With developments over the summer I felt anxious as we said our farewells; she was sanguine as young people are.  Having left the Emirate in June just after the borders and airspace were closed, and sanctions imposed by a coalition cobbled together by Saudi Arabia, no fresh chicken or milk were … Read more