Why does the government not give the public more useful advice on protecting themselves from Covid-19?

Open up any newspaper and you get full-page ads telling you to stay at home, practice social distancing and wash your hands. Such is the volume of these ads I suspect they are using it as a subsidy to the newspaper industry whose ad revenue has been hit hard by Covid-19. It is useful to have simple messages repeated frequently, but after nearly a year of the same messaging is there anyone who does not know these rules by now? …

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“Covid-19 does not care about the Battle of the Boyne…”

These were words ushered by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly in a recent Newstalk interview when asked about an all-island approach being adopted to tackle Covid-19. The irritation in his voice evident. The events over the past week will only strengthen his contempt for the Northern Ireland Executive. His Northern Ireland counterpart, Robin Swann, claimed they were blindsided by Ireland’s ban on travel from Britain and did not see it coming. Quite an extraordinary claim given the heavy media speculation …

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The Biopolitics of Covid-19

It’s like that Wizard of Oz moment, when the curtain gets pulled back, and we are confronted with the reality, that systems of social administration and political governance appear to be in want: and political leadership has failed in its primary role, to protect the health of the people. Such is the Potemkin-like nature of many globalised societies now, it’s taken a pandemic to see through this façade, of mediocre management and amateur political leadership driving the global polity. And …

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Why mental health needs public champions not just information…

Siobhan O’Neill is a professor of mental health sciences at Ulster University. She is currently leading several studies on mental health and suicide in Northern Ireland. It seems that we can’t move nowadays with mental health awareness; the latest being Princes Harry and William, and Princess Katherine, all throwing their weight behind campaigns to get people talking about mental health. About time too. With (at least) one in four people suffering from a mental illness at some point in their …

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Would you mind moving out of your home we would like to risk burning down our whole neighbourhood?

I blame the pallets. Back the olden days, when I was young, there was no way of building 11th Night bonfires high enough to scare the neighbours out of their homes. Pallets are eminently combustible, readily available and endlessly (it seems) stackable. And now, no one in authority knows what to do other than tell people whose homes might burn down to get out of them. Veteran local councillor Jim Rogers is still trying to use the gently gently approach… …

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Why marriage equality should not become yet another expensive (and hysterical) NI drama

Siobhan O’Neill is a professor of mental health sciences at Ulster University. She is currently leading several studies on mental health and suicide in Northern Ireland and teaches on several of Ulster’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in psychology.  The obsession with the “naturalness” or otherwise, of particular sexual practices between consenting adults, may appear bizarre and laughable to onlookers. However such debates about the rights of minority groups and the right to discriminate on the basis of personal beliefs influence …

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(Over) Prescribing for the Masses?

Prevention, they say, is better than cure. Public health strategies have focussed on the provision of safe drinking water, safe sewage disposal and mass vaccination. These have greatly reduced death and illness from infectious diseases. Preventative strategies are now being taken further; your GP will ask ‘screening’ questions, and you might get an invitation for a mammogram or for a bowel cancer check. We’ve all heard about the need to eat five portions of veggies a day (unless you are …

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