Entitled – “What theatre should be – critical and a little bit political” (The MAC until Sat 18 + tour)

ENTITLED – Entitled to benefits? Dignity? Protection? A new play asks how much difference the welfare reform mitigations make on the ground? How fair are the processes? How do politicians square up their talk about equality and adoration of figures like Winifred Carney with the legacy of welfare reform in Northern Ireland? The MAC, SCORE, Sean Hollywood Arts Centre and The Playhouse.

Evason’s timebound benefit tapering means losses kick in after the Assembly election …

Nothing demonstrates the zero gravity of NI politics more than the nationalist reaction to the Evason report. The SDLP who fought a rearguard action on welfare cuts welcomed it even though it contains for the first time, time bound benefits. They reason that she has implemented some of the measures they proposed but were blocked by joint Sinn Fein and DUP action. Sinn Fein on the other hand have said nothing, except to put out this presser (under the bylines of … Read more

Martin McGuinness: “if the governments move as speedily as we have done, all of this could move very quickly”

After 9 weeks of behind-closed-doors talks, including an exclusive, super-sekrit, meeting in Downing Street with David Cameron, and a less sekrit meeting with Enda Kenny, the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers emerged blinking into the light today to inform the waiting press that… “The core of that agreement, the substance, has already been agreed in dialogue terms between Sinn Féin and the DUP,” [Peter Robinson] said. [added emphasis] So they haven’t put it in writing yet, never mind agreed it … Read more

Tories identify the ‘squeezed middle’ and then find an inventive way to squeeze them just a little bit harder.

That rugby tackle, eh? Boris’s way is the old Etonian way. Coming through and winning, and it doesn’t seem to matter who gets hurt. Even Tory voters, apparently… Kate Malby, with a Tory take on the matter… …last night’s former Tory voter was heavily on message, until suddenly, she wasn’t. ‘I work bloody hard for my money to provide for my children, to give them everything they’ve got… and you’re going to take it away from me and them.’ It was … Read more

“Sinn Féin were not in court today. Councillor Kelly was, and he was acquitted of all charges.”

Entirely unrelated to Sinn Féin’s opposition to welfare reform… Last week a Deputy District Magistrate in Londonderry acquitted Sinn Féin Councillor Colin Kelly on charges of fraudulently claiming over £19,000 in Housing Benefit and Job Seekers Allowance between November 2010 and March 2014 – when he was a member of Derry City Council.  He is currently a councillor on the new Derry City and Strabane District Council for which the basic allowance is £14,200 p.a. – up from the previous allowance of £9,835 a … Read more

Underfunded youth mental health services; austerity hitting child poverty levels; NI Executive delays

In 2012, the five-year average rates of suicide in Northern Ireland were 4 times higher than England and Wales for 15−19 year olds and 17 times more for 10−14 year olds. [source] However, in 2013−14, only 7.8% of the total planned mental health expenditure was allocated to child and adolescent mental health services in Northern Ireland.  Recent austerity measures are likely to affect the already inadequate financing and investment in all tiers of Northern Ireland CAMHS. The report of the … Read more

McGuinness: Sinn Fein will offer conditional support to the Budget Bill

Martin McGuinness briefed the media earlier today in Stormont informing us that following a meeting of the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle over the weekend that the party will offer conditional support for the Budget bill currently working its way through Stormont. Here is a bit of what he said to the media; As all of you will know the national leadership of Sinn Fein met yesterday in County Kildare, that is the Ard Chomhairle that we are members of and there is … Read more

Cartoon – “Sinn Fexit”?

Talk is of Grexit and the latest from Tsipras is, “wife will leave if I surrender to Europe.” The Greek leader isn’t the only one at the centre of an impasse exercise his spouse’s bidding. Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here: http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/ http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/

Ivan Lewis lays it out for SF and the DUP “…no government can afford to sign blank cheques to Northern Ireland”

I missed this last week, because I was mostly off on holidays. But given Theresa Villiers situation grim messaging last night, it’s worth noting these series of Tweets from Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State Ivan Lewis last Friday: It is right that British and Irish Governments are intervening to support the #StormontHouseAgreement which is now hanging by a thread.1/3 — Ivan Lewis NI (@IvanLewisNI) May 29, 2015 People in #NorthernIreland are tired of stalemate. Time for all parties to show … Read more

Nationalist Parties need to shift away from the “blame the Tories” narrative and embrace the Welfare Reform debate

Nationalism needs a new economic narrative and if you didn’t believe that before, the complete debacle over Welfare Reform is proof positive of the inability to construct a proper narrative on our current economic situation or a long term strategy for fiscal rectitude and a prosperous economy. We are faced at the moment with a budgetary crisis that puts our very institutions in jeopardy. After all the stop/starts, false dawns and talks about talks, we seemingly had broken the pattern … Read more

Truth or Consequences: the potential impact of un-devolving welfare

One of the more idiosyncratic aspects of life in Northern Ireland is that the sort of constitutional crisis that would leave most countries in a spate of ear-to-the-radio, markets-tumbling panic, barely passes as newsworthy. The threat of dissolution of the Assembly and the end of the power-sharing Executive is regarded with the same complete lack of interest that, say, Louis Walsh threatening to leave the X Factor again might be. Indeed, such is the widely perceived ineptitude of the devolved … Read more

One Parent Family Payment  Adjustment  – A Lesson in welfare reform for the Northern Ireland Assembly?

In the Republic, the current Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, has introduced far reaching and controversial (to some) changes to One Parent Family Payment. In introducing these changes, she has tackled a particularly large payment made by her Department to those who are of working-age. She has done so against a concerted attack from Sinn Féin and the various brands of Trotskyite thought represented in the Dáil. The changes reflect a perspective, promoting participation in employment and ensuring that … Read more

Gerry Adams: “It is no skin off my nose not to meet the [US] State Department.”

Did the US State Department cancel a planned meeting by a “high-level US state department official” with the Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, TD,  after Sinn Féin withdrew support for the welfare reform bill, as the BBC, and others, have been reporting?  Gerry Adams’ latest statement would tend to suggest that they did.  Here’s what the Sinn Féin press release says [Gerry Adams]: “The State Department’s handling of the issue of a meeting with me is bizarre. It serves no purpose other than … Read more

Dodds: “Time the inhumane and ineffective consequences of bedroom tax are revisited in the rest of the UK”

Okay, ignore the Grauniad’s misidentification of Nigel Dodds as the leader of the DUP, and focus on the subject of the Op Ed…. In contrast to most of the political mudslinging that passes for politics in Westminster these days, the tone is incredibly relaxed and polite. Before he gets to the main course, here’s the opener: It’s a pity if the two – current – main parties can’t make themselves attractive enough to most voters, but it explains where we … Read more