The British and Irish governments mustn’t mess about. Time for Direct Rule by whatever name with Dublin support to tackle the cost of living crisis and move on to Assembly reform

We are teetering on a cliff edge of absurdity about calling an Assembly election “ nobody wants. ” From the DUP viewpoint Peter Robinson brilliantly  describes the contradictions in every party’s position except his own. He might have added that it was Chris Heaton Harris and his cronies in the ERG  who more than any other faction  got us into this trouble in the first place by championing a Withdrawal Agreement with the Protocol attached  under frankly false pretences. The …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 3 : Can it be weaponised ?

Nuclear explosion mushroom cloud

Following on from my previous articles on how nuclear power works, and why we need to rethink the dangers posed by it, it’s time to talk about the other safety-related concerns that are often raised in the debate about the viability of nuclear power. Can a nuclear power station explode like a nuclear bomb ? What happens if a nuclear power station finds itself in the theatre of military conflict, as is currently happening in Ukraine ? To deal with …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 2 : The Danger

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a little about how governments are reconsidering their attitude to nuclear power, and talked about the mechanics of how a reactor works and how it can solve the problems of getting us to net zero carbon emissions and securing energy supply in the long term.  But we can’t gloss over the bad reputation that nuclear power has. Can’t it blow up, like a nuclear bomb ? And haven’t there been a number of …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 1 : how it works

It can have escaped few of us that the effects of the war in Ukraine and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside the ongoing issue of climate change, have led to renewed interest in the possibilities offered by nuclear power and how it can help to solve the problems governments around the world are facing. This is leading to a re-evaluation of the case for nuclear, and, hopefully, objective consideration of its strengths and weaknesses. I believe that it …

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Pension provision in a united Ireland : redux

source : getty images

Last week I wrote an article suggesting that in the event of a united Ireland, the British government would propose that the future Irish government assume responsibility for paying the former Northern Ireland state pensions, on the basis that it would already be receiving the benefit of historic pension contributions that were invested in the form of public spending there. The article noted that this was the proposed arrangement in the event of Scottish independence (see page 139). This drew …

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Home truths : pension provision in a United Ireland

source : getty images

A topic I see coming up quite often relates to the question of pension provision in a united Ireland. For such an important topic, there seems to be a great deal of misinformation. The ongoing “civic conversation” has not really addressed it properly and, unfortunately, there have even been academic papers that have sought to wave the problem away.  Most people assume that since they’ve been paying national insurance contributions to the UK throughout their life, the UK government would …

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Omicron’s Real Threat to the NHS May Be Shutting Its Chinese Supply Line

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that the world never pays enough attention to things that happen in inland China in December. The whole metropolitan region of the Chinese city of Xi’an, home to the terracotta warriors, has just been put under a hard lockdown, with residents to stay home except for one person from each household allowed out to buy groceries every two days. Thirteen million people confined at home because of a Delta outbreak …

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Belfast Rapid Transit (Glider) Phase 2 announced

This week, Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon launched the public consultation for Phase 2 of the Belfast Rapid Transit (Glider) system.  I think this is a welcome development and will improve connectivity, access to and uptake of public transport in the city.  I remember when Glider was first launched on the east/west route a few years ago. Before it got off the ground, it was fashionable to dump on it (a common pattern for public transport projects on this island). …

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Why Conor Murphy’s Budget is failing our people

Sinéad McLaughlin is an SDLP MLA for Foyle and is the SDLP spokesperson for the economy For the last 14 years, Northern Ireland has been led by joint first ministers from Sinn Fein and the DUP. This leadership was supposed to deliver prosperity after the peace that was delivered by the leadership of John Hume and the SDLP. But instead of prosperity, the North continues to have some of the worst economic outcomes anywhere in Western Europe. My city of Derry …

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It is intolerable that Stormont is handing back hundreds of millions of pounds to London when urgent cancer cases are being denied treatment

The news that 275 people in Northern Ireland with “red-flag” cancer have had their surgery cancelled in the past week has been followed by the tragic irony  that the  Health Service  has been forced  to hand back £90 million unspent this year to the Treasury in Whitehall . The dismal information reminds me of Irish farm produce being exported from Ireland during the Famine of the 1840s while more than a  million starved.  The theory behind it is even more …

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New Decade, Same Nonsense

With the four-week circuit breaker due to expire on Friday, people across Northern Ireland are looking for certainty. Businesses need to know if they can re-open at the weekend. Workers want to know if they’ll get an income over the next few weeks. All the while, six of Northern Ireland’s hospitals are at full capacity. As of this morning, the Executive still hasn’t agreed a way forward.  Robin Swann proposed a two-week extension of the circuit breaker but this was …

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The Future of Retail – #TheReset…

Aodhán Connolly, Director, Northern Ireland Retail Consortium There was an unsettling sense of déjà vu when the latest restrictions on households meeting were announced. After a summer when it, slowly, felt as if Northern Ireland was reopening it was an unpleasant reminder coronavirus is still present and not yet beaten. The feeling of the world closing down a little bit is something we are all adjusting to again. However, things are not the same as March. We have all learnt …

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“Build Back Better” – how do we turn soundbites into a successful reset and recovery?

Sinead McLaughlin is the SDLP’s economy spokesperson, deputy chair of the Assembly’s economy committee and a Foyle MLA. Covid-19 will continue to damage our collective health and our economy for a long time to come. Many businesses will fail and, even more sadly, many more people will die from coronavirus.  Yet it should not be too early to consider recovery. The SDLP has put together four principles for that recovery – a new deal for young people; a new localism; new connectivity; …

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Is a Universal Basic Income from the magic money tree the antidote to recession?

1930s jobless queue. ” Buddy can you spare a dime”? With the mother of all recessions about to hit us we’re told, who can be blamed if we search frantically for magic bullets as furlough payments taper off?   A universal basic income is one of them. Go for it says veteran commentator Simon Jenkins, usually one to save public money from big public spending schemes. Rishi Sunak must think radically. There is no point in saddling individuals, companies or future …

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Next with Covid 19. Is it the economy, stupid?

Newspaper subs are calling it “Manic Monday.” Are they right? How is it with you? Flash in the pan or setting a trend?  This week marks the landmark of a return to shopping, the essential activity for economic revival while Covid is still active. It throws into relief the stark choice everybody hopes to finesse – health or wealth? The need for a strategy for revival is as vital as one for easing out of  lockdown.  In the UK neither …

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Theresa Villiers U- turn! Arch Brexiteer opposes free trade deal with US as ” threat to the Union”

An intriguing little Brexit story.  At a post- referendum conference in 2016 I watched flinching as Ireland’s most eminent public servant Peter Sutherland, former Attorney General, former EU commissioner, first head of the World Trade Organisation, chairman of BP etc.etc ( now sadly dead), tore into the UK’s decision to leave the EU as insane, disastrous etc., giving chapter and verse.  As he finished he admitted with a grin he’d been ranting. Batting for Britain was former NI secretary Theresa …

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The Governor of the Bank of England and Tory back benchers join Boris Johnson to reject the A-word – Austerity

Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England  Because of Covid 19,“ the UK is facing a mega recession” warns the Institute of Fiscal  Studies. It’s hardly a surprise to learn more every day about the dire state of yet another part of the economy. GDP is forecast to slump by 25-30 per cent this quarter, and millions of jobs could be destroyed – with no guarantees about the recovery.   Official figures yesterday showed a 5.8 per cent fall in …

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There is more than one vision of a new Ireland

I’ve yet to read Paul Gosling’s book with the vaultingly ambitious yet carefully ambiguous title “A New Ireland: a new Union, a New Society.”   Judging from the discussion and its antecedents from the Holywell Trust, it makes an important contribution to enriching the debate on the future of the island.  But the logic of ideas seldom reproduces easily in politics. Political will is something else entirely. Broadly there are two contrasting approaches to the future: to follow the logic of …

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How are we really doing compared to the south and GB? The public health and economic positions of coronavirus for Northern Ireland need more searching inquiry

North -south differences of approach to Covid 19 are hampering the chances of saving lives, according to an epidemiologist Prof Gabriel Scally.  He brings apparent authority to differences which have been aired politically but not as far as I’ve seen among other  experts. These differences should surely be resolved at a north-south ministerial meeting today. Scally writes in the Irish News.. The advice to someone in Lifford with symptoms of the disease is to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 …

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A plea to Our Politicians; please spend the emergency funding you have been allocated by the Chancellor as he intended and on the basis of need…

Following the publication of my recent article on Monday literally pleading for Stormont to reallocate money from its capital budgets to stop the collapse of the local economy, it is pleasing to hear Westminster announce targeted financial support for Northern Ireland. However, the pronouncements from our Politicians in recent days as to how they are going to spend these funds is however deeply worrying and their approach needs to be challenged and scrutinised to ensure these funds are not wasted …

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