Irish government’s Covid 19 framework represents an important shift of pace…

It’s interesting how the framing of the Covid crisis is beginning to subtly change. There seems to be a realisation that this is going to be long war, not a short campaign. The news of two new Covid deaths in Northern Ireland is carried by most major titles… Both victims were aged between 60-79. One of the deaths took place in the Newry, Mourne and Down council area, and the other was in Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon. A further …

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Northern Ireland’s future demands new energy and ideas from the BBC

Denis Bradley writing in the Irish News The atmosphere that has been nurtured on BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle since the peace process has driven away more voices than it has attracted. Only the most vocal of our politicians are regulars. Most clerics avoid it like the plague. Key personnel in many of our most important institutions never appear, most likely out of fear. Many do not feel equipped to partake in an atmosphere that is not always conducive to …

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How does our press emerge from lockdown? Part Four: Has the paywall dice got any spots?

I hadn’t planned even to write the third installment of this series but now, here is the fourth! Events of the past few weeks have been playing on my mind and I think it’s worth sharing. Recently, those of us who follow the Belfast Telegraph on social media will have noticed that it was actively promoting the fact that its “premium articles” would soon only be available to paying subscribers. Hugo wrote an article in anticipation of it happening a …

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Anti-racism must not become a new form of cultural oppression

Laurence Oliver’s Othello ( 1965) Although from today we in England can create our own family bubble of different households, it’s still not too late to enter the lockdown confessional. I am not for a moment  about to challenge the central aims of Black Lives Matter, or persistent discrimination at work or even what seems to me to be the intractable problem of race as an identifier of knife crime suspects in stop and search. I hope I’m sensitive to  …

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From Northern Ireland to the US, from 1968 to today, the camera is a powerful catalyst for change

The  horrific  image  of policemen in Minneapolis  caught in the act of slowly  choking  George Floyd to death  has prompted the thought :  how  different would have been the course of the Troubles if  they’d been waged under the eyes of  24/7  live news coverage and video cameras with sound on mobile phones?    Would a whole race of citizen journalists,  citizen terrorists and citizen security forces have been created  all videoing each other like crazy? Might violence amounting  to …

Read more…From Northern Ireland to the US, from 1968 to today, the camera is a powerful catalyst for change

If I had to do lockdown again, I would cut back on media…

In my younger years, I used to backpack around the world. One time I met an Australian girl who mentioned that she never consumed any news at all. This has always stuck in my mind. I was amazed and asked her was she not worried about missing out on anything important? Her insightful reply was that if it were important enough people would tell her. She gave the example of 9/11. The day after 9/11, someone said to her ‘Did …

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“Journalists have always had to have integrity”

The media are at a crossroads, with fears over the future of some of Northern Ireland’s best known newspapers. Existing trends favouring social media over print newspapers have been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis, with additional financial pressures from a collapse in advertising revenues. This is an appropriate moment to reflect on the future of the media and on ethical responsibilities on journalists working in a post-conflict society. The latest Forward Together podcast from the Holywell Trust features an interview …

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Normal People depicts an Irish generation to appreciative millions that is at last growing up normally

Irish pornhub or a touching rite of passage? Critics are divided and that may be an age thing. But there’s no doubt that the TV series based on Sally Rooney’s rather minimal novel about the relationship between Sligo teenagers is a smash hit. This boomer old enough to be their grandparent is still getting over the fact that a drama about relationships set in a C21 Irish high school and small town has not a hint of Girl With Green …

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How does our press emerge from lockdown? Part three: Regional Sunday Newspapers

I hadn’t planned a third instalment of this series as frankly I have little to no interest in the local Sunday newspaper market these days. Certainly my days of buying five or six Sundays that would see me through to midweek are long gone and, apart from a quick browse of the football sections (usually when I’m in Costa or Nero for an afternoon coffee) there’s not a lot on the front pages of our local Sundays to entice me …

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With Paywall in Place, has the Tele Lost its Welly?

Ten years ago, the Belfast Telegraph received a prestigious UK Award for Digital News Service of the Year. This was followed by multiple awards for website of the year, huge growth in on-line readers, and a new platform for digital debate that attracted thousands of comments. But with the installation of a new paywall on 19 May, are these achievements now at risk? Will the free and open voice of liberal unionism be silenced to all save a minority of …

Read more…With Paywall in Place, has the Tele Lost its Welly?

SDLP suggestion for saving the press welcome, but publishers must dig deep too

Earlier this month I uploaded two articles here asking how our local press might emerge from lockdown and sharing my concerns about the ability of some of them to do so. Since then the future of regional and local newspapers all over the UK has become a pretty hot topic, with staff being furloughed at most papers and others even indefinitely suspending publication. Local journalists – including quite a few very good ones of my acquaintance – have been tweeting …

Read more…SDLP suggestion for saving the press welcome, but publishers must dig deep too

How does our press emerge from lockdown? Part two: Regional Daily Newspapers

Last week wrote of our local weekly newspaper sector and of the need to save them. I also said that I thought a lot of them COULD be saved if the will is there. But what of our three dailies? There may be less scope there for a happy ending in a sector that across the British Isles has been in freefall for over a decade. Up until the end of the troubles, the picture here was a simple one. …

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How does our press emerge from lockdown? Part one: Local Weekly Newspapers

In the past few weeks, we’ve heard a lot from the concerned voices representing various of our local industry sectors, all of them understandably concerned about how Covid-19 will impact their sector and how they will emerge from it. All legitimate concerns that we should share. But as yet we’ve heard little from the sector, I believe could be the biggest casualty of all, and one we would never be able to replace – the local newspaper industry. News outlets …

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There is a case for Boris Johnson, the only one able to bring off the biggest screeching U -Turn of our times

Why does Boris rise and rise if he’s so hopeless? It’s the burning question. Talented  bloke,  on form a stylish and witty writer  who has earned  600k  in just over a year. The evidence suggests a Jekyll and Hyde character with egotistical  and sociopathic tendencies. Not exactly unusual in leaders.  A philanderer who compelled a girlfriend to have an abortion – like Lloyd George “the man who won the war” in 1918. I’ve been looking at the case in his …

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Boris stonewalls for dear life

Daily Mail splash  Can any politician survive such scrutiny?  Hard to complain when the dastardly deed is almost live on camera like Mark Field’s collaring of the Greenpeace protestor –               And what about  Boris’s  row with his girlfriend, loud enough to be recorded through the wall? Will  either politician survive the twitter storm?  There’s simply no way of knowing.  In this supposedly more tolerant age the tumbrils  roll for those whom we  take …

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Northern Ireland is a place as far apart as ever in the UK national media

“Northern Ireland is boring” has been every London news editor’s motto for a lifetime. News by definition requires new developments to be “News” and  what was seen  from newsdesks as the endless monotony of the Troubles  was a killer not just of people but circulations. And weren’t there bigger and better conflicts all over the place to use up the limited stock of compassion?  Remember the cynical old maxim: “one killing  in England is worth a hundred in Northern Ireland.” …

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Shame on the London papers for ignoring the Ballymurphy inquest, while they support the campaign for a limited army amnesty

  Roy Greenslade is both a supporter of Sinn Fein and writing in the Guardian, a fair minded and expert critic of his old profession. I mention this to anticipate an irrelevant smear.   On the reporting of the Ballymurphy inquest, he’s absolutely right. A story that matches in horror the Birmingham pub bombs or the abuses in cause celebres such as Hillsborough or  the murder of Stephen Lawrence  is largely ignored because the initials  “IRA” are involved. The old reflex …

Read more…Shame on the London papers for ignoring the Ballymurphy inquest, while they support the campaign for a limited army amnesty

What would a Festival of Britain and Northern Ireland say? “Politics and ceremonial are not separate subjects, the one serious, the other superficial. Ritual.. is itself a type of power”

Ulster 71 Exhibition BBC Image  The headline quote is from David Cannadine in “Rituals of Royalty etc..”  in “Traditional Societies”, ed. Cannadine and Simon Price, CAP 1987 p3, quoted by Gillian McIntosh (below)  Anniversaries like death and taxes are always with us. Perhaps they’re even sent to challenge  us.  Politicians are tempted to lay on  bread and circuses to show up the better face of things. Could it really work for Brexit?  The Irish Times believes not. The paper has …

Read more…What would a Festival of Britain and Northern Ireland say? “Politics and ceremonial are not separate subjects, the one serious, the other superficial. Ritual.. is itself a type of power”

Should the Irish ambassador claim to speak for Ireland over “anti-Irish” comment?

Was it appropriate for  Adrian O’Neill the Irish ambassador to Great Britain ( sic) to complain publicly about an article in the Spectator at all, and specifically because he  thought it was “anti-Irish?” I can’t reproduce it  but article complained of by Robert Hardiman, made an ironic point about the Republic’s decision to join the Francophone commonwealth at this time of shifting relationships, rather than what used to be called the British Commonwealth. ( No please don’t  get  diverted to …

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Is it possible to leave the EU without wreaking serious self harm? The answer No is all the more powerful, coming from a reforming Brexiteer

Peter Oborne is an often emotional and brutally frank political journalist, an instinctive but very independent minded conservative. For the website Open Democracy he has penned a model recantation from his support for Brexit. It’s nearly three years since I, along with 17. 4 million other Britons, voted for Brexit. Today I have to admit that the Brexit project has gone sour. Brexit has paralysed the system. It has turned Britain into a laughing stock. And it is certain to …

Read more…Is it possible to leave the EU without wreaking serious self harm? The answer No is all the more powerful, coming from a reforming Brexiteer