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

Government recalcitrance over refugee resettlement in early 1990s #20YearRule

Between 1989 and 1992, local civil servants responded to two requests for Northern Ireland to offer accommodation for refugees from two regions of the world: Vietnam and the former Yugoslavia. In the second instance, the internal response lacked enthusiasm with officials unwilling to state publicly that they were willing to accept in families to NI as part of the UK-wide programme.

Sleep; wake up to the benefits…

Sleep is finally revealing its secrets and they are proving more sensational than we ever dreamt. Sleep, that part of human functioning we treat with such contempt and distain, might be a means of improving many aspects of our lives particularly our health. Sleep, of sufficient quality and quantity, is offering a panacea for a range of medical conditions plaguing modern life. But will we listen? We; fail to take enough exercise, eat too much poor quality foods; sustain bodies … Read more

On the multiple follies of insider knowledge, in praise of plural thinking…

Sometimes we have to trust experts: If a doctor sends you for a scan you should probably go. Of course you can seek alternative advice but in the absence of specialized knowledge we are rendered rather passive in the face of threats and fears. It is arguable that much of political commentary in Northern Ireland is driven by unknowability and the intercession of experts who provide light and insight. Thus we are told that a problem with Brexit is to … Read more

Surrendering the ‘War on Christmas’

‘Tis the season of war- the ‘War on Christmas’. This is the time of year when, traditionally, conservative media outlets employ that phrase to describe what they see as a supposed marginalization of Christmas and a relentless attack against Christmas symbolism, greetings, displays, and spirituality. Their goal in calling this out, they say, is to restore Christmas to its rightful position as a Christian holiday in a Christian America. They seek to do away with the secular trappings of Christmas, … Read more

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