Soapbox: Steven Agnew argues it’s time to look at voluntary coalition

Soapbox: Steven Agnew argues that it’s time to look at voluntary coalition. He says “no party should have the power to tear the devolved institutions down and leave the electorate in Northern Ireland powerless”, adding “that’s why a voluntary coalition can usher in an era of fresh politics and politicians that put people first”.

Colum Eastwood: NI Executive need to come to a collective response on RHI

SOAPBOX Writing exclusively for Slugger, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood invokes the old political truism that if a story involving a political scandal runs into the second week then resignations always follow. Arlene Foster is now facing into her second week of the biggest political scandal to hit Stormont since devolution. This story isn’t go away anytime soon, in fact it’s growing legs …

Soapbox – Is the same-old same-old is going to put us in more bother than usual?

MANY MONTHS AGO, Peter Robinson stepped down, his place taken by Arlene Foster. Thus, the Big House of unionism put their PR machine into overdrive to figure out how to make people vote for them, and came up with the idea of making Arlene look all progressive and friendly and able to take Northern Ireland forward … but without a single new policy to back any of the rhetoric up. That, of course, wasn’t enough.

For Northern Ireland to continue to fight racism we need leadership from right across society…

Issues around race and immigration are making headlines in Northern Ireland and across the UK.  Of course, this is nothing new, it has often been alleged that Northern Ireland stands out as a racist society. The question we face is whether this is fair comment or an exaggeration of the truth? The answer, to me at least, is that, though the great majority of people here are repulsed by racist attacks, we are a society wherein there are fault-lines of … Read more

Soapbox: DUP’s vulnerability re cosy relationship with Sinn Fein, will rapidly decrease

Post-election thoughts from Jamie Bryson who was campaign manager for the independent Unionist candidate in South Belfast Ruth Patterson.  There is little doubt that this years Assembly election was a bitterly disappointing experience for Unionists seeking to challenge the dominance of the DUP. There must be a pragmatic realisation that the DUP’s vulnerability on their flank, in terms of their cosy relationship with Sinn Fein, will rapidly decrease within the next 5-10 years. Those within Sinn Fein with a background … Read more

Soapbox: Making marriage sex-neutral is a huge cultural loss to our community

David Smyth is public policy officer at the Evangelical Alliance and here lays out a case against making marriage sex neutral arguing that there is an elision between the terms marriage and wedding which redefines the committment of hetrosexual couples whether it is inside a faith community or outside. Same-sex marriage is a sensitive issue. It’s all about identity, relationships and belief and these are things we all care deeply about. There have been some very personal stories from people … Read more

#SluggerSoapbox: It’s about time women were celebrated, but we’ll have to do it for ourselves!

The following is from Orlaith Hendron, who is a lobbyist in the Women’s Sector in Northern Ireland. We all know people are struggling these days; we only have to go outside and take a look at the house next door where our friends used to live, and know that redundancy meant they couldn’t afford rent. We only have to see ads in church bulletins about food banks and know that there won’t be enough there to help everyone who needs … Read more

Does First Minister’s silence on Daly suggest lack of leadership..?

DESPITE Cardinal Cahal Daly’s opposition to IRA violence and the tributes paid by unionist politicians and Protestant church leaders, at the time of writing, First Minister Peter Robinson has said nothing about the Catholic leader’s death on Thursday. Perhaps Robinson will speak soon – although by then his sympathies are not likely to be seen as particularly heartfelt. Maybe he has his reasons, what with his wife’s woes, but not to issue a simple statement seems unbelievably petty on the … Read more

Blame the parents..?

TONY Blair has called for parents to take their responsibilities more seriously, as he launched a new drive against bad parenting and anti-social behaviour. As Tony knows all too well, you can’t keep your eye on the kids all of the time (maybe he picked the wrong role model !), so he wants families to teach children to respect others. Closer to home, children are copping criticism from the Chief Constable for (allegedly) being involved rioting and sectarian attacks recently. … Read more

A place apart, judicially…

AFTER the fiasco of loyalist “foot soldiers” escaping jail after they attacked an ice cream van that the UDA wanted protection money from, you might like to compare and contrast court action against similar crimes in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Local rioters rarely (ever?) get more than six months these days, but even after the sentences of some of the Bradford rioters were reduced a couple of years ago, they were still all longer than the … Read more

Testing times for MoT centres…

TWO workers at a Co Antrim MoT vehicle testing centre have been suspended in a probe into “irregularities”. This is not the first time I’ve heard of “irregularities” involving the Driver and Vehicle Testing Agency. The DVTA promises impartial testing, but with stories surfacing about the manner in which some tests have been conducted, it begins to raise questions about the agency’s ability to retain public confidence. If you have an MoT horror story, publish it in the comments – … Read more

Fireman Hospitalised

A fireman is in hospital this morning recovering from injuries sustained when his crew was attacked in what may have been a pre-planned ambush by a group of yobs. Unison Breaking News reports Chris Kerry, the local commander – “He said people were using mobile phones to take photographs of last night’s incident, which he described as “recreational violence where people are getting a sick pleasure” from attacking emergency workers.” These sorts of attacks are a disgrace.But it’s all very … Read more

Double Standards ?

The Irish Independent reports,Support for 50,000 Irish illegals in US , that Catholic Church representatives and some FG politicians are in the USA lobbying for special treatment for Irish people breaking the law in the USA.The Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty, and Fr Alan Hilliard, as well as various FG Tds and an MEP are there at their own expense, hoping to meet politicians and Irish American groups to support the case for administrative changes which will make it easier … Read more

Disgraceful behaviour

UTV also reports that an arson attack in Derry has wrecked a new Renal unit being constructed at altnagelvin hospital. Damage is estimated at at least £250,000 and the opening of the dialysis unit will be considerably delayed, meaning that patients will have to continue to be treated at Omagh. It’s difficult to comprehend the mentality of the people involved in this.How do we begin to address the issue of vandalism? Ambrose Uprichard

McGuinness defends Sinn Fein…

IN case you missed it, here’s Martin McGuinness on the BBC’s Today programme yesterday, denying there was a threat in his “friendly advice” to the McCartneys. Justin Webb outlines the McCartney’s US itinerary here. (Realplayer required) Belfast Gonzo

Online exclusive: Speech by Malachi O’Doherty

BELOW is a transcript of Malachi O’Doherty’s speech to the Alliance Party conference at the weekend, in which he laments the death of democratic politics in Northern Ireland. Elsewhere, Alliance leader David Ford was strongly critical of the two governments’ mismanagement of the peace process and reiterated calls for a voluntary coalition, and called on the IRA to disband or be disowned by Sinn Fein.Transcript of O’Doherty’s speech: Moments of sudden and overwhelming change occur in life. We may not … Read more

Charity Commissions begin somewhere else…

ONE little-reported story that I missed was that the Government is holding a consultation to review the administration of charities and relevant legislation in Northern Ireland. The lack of accountability in this area has been one of my bugbears for a few years, so while welcome, it’s very, very late in the day and seems to have been prompted by an IMC report. But will a UK-style Charity Commission be enough to take on the scams in Northern Ireland? The … Read more