The Hatch Regeneris Leaks: Department for the Economy Hoping Against Hope.

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The appearance of the previously unpublished Hatch Regeneris Report into fracking and petroleum exploration by Extinction Rebellion on EcoLeaks raises a number of questions for government in Northern Ireland. Fundamentally, it works to highlight some contradictions between the procedural definition of democracy – where government is about the law and the process of policymaking – and a substantive one – where accountability is measured not just in election results but in the responsiveness of government to pressing needs and injustices. …

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Will Stormont’s “indifference” over petroleum licensing see an industry rollover jackpot by default?

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In the often mundane world of Assembly questions a recent response by the Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons is remarkable in its implications. First among these is the potential for a re-run of the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) situation whereby taxpayers continued to make good bad financial and policy calculations on a massive scale. In response to a question by the Green Party’s Rachel Woods, the Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons, stated that: ‘I am not in a …

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Hating Democracy: Climate Change Legislation in Northern Ireland

The consociational power-sharing/power-dividing system of devolved government at Stormont is a technical fix to a way of thinking about Northern Ireland – a solution to the problem of two incompatible (ethno-religious) traditions. It’s unsurprising that the resort to institutional schema remains the go-to of politicians. However, forcing public debate down pre-prepared channels and, therefore, delimiting the sites (both discursive and physical) where deliberation occurs has profound democratic implications. These implications entail an elitist neutering of debate through agenda-setting. The institutionalization …

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On the multiple follies of insider knowledge, in praise of plural thinking…

Sometimes we have to trust experts: If a doctor sends you for a scan you should probably go. Of course you can seek alternative advice but in the absence of specialized knowledge we are rendered rather passive in the face of threats and fears. It is arguable that much of political commentary in Northern Ireland is driven by unknowability and the intercession of experts who provide light and insight. Thus we are told that a problem with Brexit is to …

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Northern Ireland Assembly Election of March 2017 and the Limitations of Pragmatism

In a deeply divided society such as Northern Ireland political developments tend to be filtered through a number of lenses and experienced at a number of levels – arguably to an even greater degree than is the case in other, less fractious countries. Brexit has no doubt played a major role in mobilizing Northern nationalism, which has swung from one of its worst electoral results to one of its best in less than a year. Of course, perceptions of the …

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