Soapbox: Is it time to consider giving Loyalists special group rights?

LEVELLING UP: Sophie Long argues that we should equip Loyalists with the necessary power and resources to compete as equal participants in Northern Irish politics. She advocates the fairly radical step of implementing special group rights, not only in order for Loyalism to flourish, but as a matter of justice for minority groups.

Irish Elections: Chasing the Democracy Dream

DEMOS RETURNS: The Athenians and the Romans shared many things, but they had radically different ideas on government. In Rome, most State power was reserved to the winners of elections. Athens focused instead on intensive citizen debate, frequent direct votes, and lottery-appointed officials to handle the bureaucracy.

A Good Week for Democracy Globally

There was something discomfiting about the funeral of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore’s achievements under his rule were extraordinary, but the story presented on his death was a sanitised fable. World leaders queued up to subscribe to the cult of wise old Harry, father of the nation. Lee wasn’t so benevolent when challenged. Opposition politicians were sued for libel and bankrupted for criticising government policies during election campaigns. When the opposition had the temerity to actually win some seats, the state …

Read more…

Politics In The Pub – Inaugural Event

This is something that Mick Fealty “encouraged” me to do, and I think it’s a great concept so I’ve picked it up and ran with it. I hope for it to become a regular event but for now, let’s just get the first one out of the way Wednesday 4th February 7.30pm Hudson Bar – Gresham Street, Belfast. (In the “Heel Bar” which is out the back to the beer garden then a door on the right) Open Government Network …

Read more…

Ireland’s suffering is only intensified by its loss of the art of good-policy making

Journalist Deirdre O’Shaughnessy did a long post yesterday on a very personal experience she had in Patrick Street in Cork recently. It’s worth reading the whole way through to get its fuller effect, but the point she makes at the end is worth highlighting… …while we are all distracted by Irish Water and suspicious greenways and TDs’ fraud, our society is crumbling, and, distracted by our own private struggles, we are letting it. Yesterday the death of a homeless man …

Read more…

On the continuing failure and decline of binary choice in democratic politics…

Of all people, it was perhaps Jeremy Paxman on his retirement from BBC Newsnight who put his finger on the problem causing such disillusion with politics – it is the nonsense that all politics is binary. He said in an interview that it was utterly ludicrous to suggest the Conservatives have all the answers to the country’s woes and Labour has none of them; and equally ludicrous to suggest Labour has all the answers and the Conservatives none – and …

Read more…

Essay: Gough Whitlam and the fragility of parliamentary democracy

However over-quoted a historical figure he may be, Winston Churchill certainly gave his global audience plenty to ponder over whenever he opened his mouth or put pen to paper.  His dictum that ‘democracy is the worst form of government, except for the all the other forms that have been tried’ still strikes ringing chords, five decades after his demise.  Then again, he also said that ‘The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter’, though whether …

Read more…

Hong Kong: the spirit of freedom

As far as the eye can see, young pro-democracy protestors have taken to the streets of central Hong Kong to demand the right to elect freely the next chief executive of the territory. The students’ speeches, songs and placards celebrate the freedoms they want to enjoy. Beijing has announced restrictions for the 2017 election – which effectively rule out any prospect of a democrat standing. The youth of Hong Kong are not happy with how their non-democratic future is shaping up. …

Read more…

News Letter accuses Sinn Fein of trying to pull an ATN on them…

Here’s a funny one (in both senses of the word).  Aldous Huxley wrote back in 1958 that… …the early advocates of uni­versal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democra­cies — the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the …

Read more…

After devolution, referendums and possible succession[s], what’s happening to our politics?

Janan Ganesh is an outstanding new talent in the UK political press. His columns for the FT are fresh and sit outside the niggly media bubble of Westminster. A few days back he outlined an apparent effect within the political political system currently more pronounced on the Tory side of things, but which may also have echoes elsewhere. He argues… As the biggest parties weaken as corporate entities, individual politicians and factions within them become more powerful. So even personal patronage, the one lever …

Read more…

Democracy is fine, but ‘quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ in Northern Ireland?

reminded us some time ago, that the defining features of a functioning democracy extend beyond free and fair elections. The increasingly kleptocratic regime in Turkey is a perfect example of a democracy sliding away from the tenets of liberal democracy on the basis of a ruler’s belief that winning elections provides him with the unfettered right to rule. Egypt, Iran and Syria to varying degrees provide similar case studies. In his recent book How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters Daniel Hannan …

Read more…

What makes for a successful and thriving democracy?

I picked up this gif on Google Plus a few days ago. If you look at the detail you’ll see there’s plenty to argue about, but it seems to me that’s what makes it worth sharing. What do we consider needs to be present to consider a country to be democratic? The first and most obvious are the settled condition under which people are happy to offer themselves for public service: Posters are up: Best of luck to all local …

Read more…

Scotland, “England” and the post colonial struggle for warmth and freedom between porcupines…

Melanie McDonagh writing in London based Evening Standard thinks Michael D “…isn’t so much a foreign dignitary; more like a friendlier version of Alex Salmond”. Aha, now it would be tempting to go with the ‘well if Scotland was independent…’ line, but it’s probably better to point out that as President Michael D is supposed to stay clear of politics. In fact, London is probably the least advantageous point to understand the nature and perhaps even the merits of the …

Read more…

“…allowing organizations to attract support without having to demonstrate superior functionality”

Lant Pritchard writing in Harvard’s Building State Capacity blog draws some useful lessons on how US democratic institutions were forced to prove themselves in a struggle with the independent interests of their people. He offers these insights into why the transfer of institutions in developing countries not only may not work, it might also have profoundly negative consequences: One, organizations could gain legitimacy simply from mimicking the forms of rich country organizations without their function. Sociologists of organizations call this …

Read more…

“a party that does not understand for what it is fighting has no right to win…”

Ever since spending nine hours in the basement of Belfast central Library scouring the pages of the News Letter over the Famine periood, I’ve been a big fan of the direct style of Victorian journalism. This extract is from page 9 of The Spectator magazine in August 1891: We suppose it is not, on the whole, disadvantageous for each party to have its turn in Opposition and in Office, in the responsibilities of criticism and in the responsibilities of administration. …

Read more…

#Borgen: Dramatic lessons on prostitution for Northern Ireland’s lawmakers?

Theatre and democracy had grown up together and were inextricably linked in the Athenian mind. Dr Michael Scott, The Greatest Show on Earth So human trafficking, and making prostitution illegal.  Such are the maximalist ambitions behind Lord Morrow’s private members bill.  The French lower house has just passed such a law up to the Senate. But it was also part of a fictional treatment on the Danish political drama last weekend. The Swedish research that’s been cited in the Northern …

Read more…

Pending Vote: Democracy 101 in the Lyric as part of #BelFest

Over a hundred people filed into the Lyric’s Naughton Studio clutching their digital binary voting handsets: we used our fingers to press the Yes or No buttons. Seated on three sides of the small theatre facing a large screen with a blinking cursor, the audience quickly got used to answering questions as the timer counted down to zero. For a while Roger Bernat’s Pending Vote felt like the true beginnings of the much lauded seldom found new politics in Northern …

Read more…

Local democracy in NI: Have our problems got bigger, or our politics smaller?

Okay, a short break from focusing on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. Malachi O’Doherty has been looking at the grand palais of local democracy that is the Belfast City Council chamber. And what goes on there: It looks like the sort of place world affairs are hammered out in. Actually it is the drain into which our sectarian toxins flow. And as for power? Well, there’s the bins and the parks and cemeteries and not much more. Belfast City Council …

Read more…