Republic using productivity boom to invest public infrastructure and housing

house, structure, real estate

A typically spunky piece from the New Statesman’s new columnist Wolfgang Münchau starts with a great quote from Otto von Bismarck: “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” He has Angela Merkel in his sights. He notes that despite the appearance of economic success, her austerity policies have led to a public investment shortfall in public investment of some half-a-trillion pounds, with the dire consequences only leeching up from the …

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“If there’s going to be a united Ireland, that Ireland is going to look different.”

aminoindane, psychoactive, drug

“Every voyage is intensive, and occurs in relation to thresholds of intensity between which it evolves or that it crosses.” — Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari It’s interesting how Tommy Tiernan has moved from raucous bad boy of the Irish comedy stage, to a sort of father confessor, conscience of a nation figure on his recent interview programme, The Tommy Tiernan Show (most of it is available globally). That’s partly because from the first episode he’s wanted to ‘horse into’ …

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Invest NI faces a damning report on its lack of strategic delivery and poor organisational culture

result, excuse me, fail

This week saw the release of a damning report on the performance of Invest NI. The report was commissioned before Minister for the Department of the Economy left office from a stand alone Independent Review Body chaired by Sir Michael Lyons. In the executive summary Lyons and his team make the same case we’ve been talking about this week in Health, ie that the political stalemate has grave implications for the success (or lack thereof) of a critical strategic body …

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New air of seriousness about EU/UK negotiations promises to defuse the NI Protocol for Unionists

explosive, explosion, bomb

John Manley reported earlier in the week that whilst the timetable may not coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement, there seems a seriousness about EU/UK talks that was entirely missing under the Boris Johnson administration. In today’s Irish News Newton Emerson notes that even the Restoring Northern Ireland’s Place in the Union report from a new think tank Centre for the Union, and coauthored by Jamie Bryson and Ethan Thoburn, editor of the Bruges Group… Unionism’s practical concerns …

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Health Crisis: “When you don’t have political leadership, you don’t get decisions..”

bridge, autumn, nature

This is a useful addendum to my post on Friday, which highlighted the deleterious effect of political boycotting of the only institutions that can deliver real change both in the here and now and in the longer term for four out of the last six years. John Compton, author of the previous report the joint first ministers of the DUP and Sinn Féin also chose to ignore, Transforming Your Care had this to say about the total absence of any real …

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On how we’re not dealing with the too difficult to confront present…

a man standing at a table with a laptop in front of him

In all the comment that fills newsprint about our past, sad cases of families deprived of their loved ones looking for someone to pay for their life time of loss, or offence taken a commemorations of dead paramilitaries, whilst extra judicial shootings continue in the here and now (the killing of Seán Fox in a social club in West Belfast just part of a self regulating criminal landscape now)… Meanwhile across town a more contemporary form of politics is getting …

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NI politics still mired in fear and loathing largely because it remains stubbornly unaccountable…

Have you noticed how weird the democratic world is getting (yes, outside Northern Ireland)? The UK has had three PMs in as many months, and now the US Congress is being to ransom by a caucus of no more than 5% of Representatives. The world (not just the UK) is getting more and more like Northern Ireland where we’re never sure what we want but we are sure as clear about what we don’t want. One common link between all …

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For a resilient society we must challenge the master narratives that catastrophise our past suffering with our own stories

music, cassette tape, cassette

Stories for me kick in about the time I finally began to do some interesting things with my working life. I spent a large chunk of my 20s and 30s helping groups of kids mostly (in schools mostly) across Ireland, Britain and in what was then a carefully delineated western Europe from Lisbon to Wilhelmina in northern Sweden to Keady in south Armagh. In west Berlin, nearly four years before the wall came down, I vaguely recall gathering a story …

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If you’re a commenter on Slugger, then please read this short note on civility, pain and learning…

I inadvertently got caught up in the staid drama of the US House of Representatives failing three times to elect a speaker. A small band of hold outs when to (in my limited view) the ludicrous extreme of voting for someone who didn’t want the job. It is emblematic of a modern era in which signalling discontent is more politically profitable pastime than fastening down the more challenging job of getting stuff done. This was a protest against the ‘secret …

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Ireland’s grand coalition (that Micheál Martin built) throws its job share switch half way through…

We live in a world where fewer journalists chase fewer and fewer stories. The change of Taoiseach just before Christmas has come with a flurry in the southern press chasing a newly refreshed PR initiative from the less-than-shy Leo Varadkar. The contrast with his predecessor Micheál Martin is stark. Martin’s love of and focus on policy means rather than the press there’s been very little in the media about what has been the most active period in central government in …

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To “save” the Belfast Agreement we need a strategic deployment of our own democratic values

black traffic light

A variety of questions have been raised over the past few days in the Irish Times opinion pages, including Alex Kane’s asking whether the Belfast Agreement is worth saving at this stage. Those of us who know and love Alex know this is not a new tune. He’s one of life’s pessimists, though not without good reason. He was out on the doors during the twin disaster elections (for the UUP at least) in 2003 and 2005 which saw the end …

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Its tolerance for #Bullshit is slowly eating up the US’s once prodigious appetite for long term gains

man, secret, face

Nothing is true; everything is allowed. -Naked Lunch, William Burroughs This is a US story with useful universal lessons attached. Congressman Elect George Santos fate may be sealed by the fact his defence of his lies has taken a Woody Allen-ish comedic turn. He now claims that rather being a Jew or Jewish, he’s Jew-ish. As blogged here a long, long time ago, this is, quite literally, “Bullshit” [There’s a book on it! – Ed]. “Bullshit is trying to impress the listener …

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Real politics should co-evolve with experience, not just chase after a bunch of groundless abstractions

an abstract image of a purple and pink cube

Every model of abstraction you make, your models get prettier and prettier but the world you’re describing gets farther and farther away… -Katherine Collins One downside to institutional unsteadiness in Northern Ireland is that we end up talking about what might eventually replace them, rather than how to fix the obvious flaw of how easy it is for one party to lift the ball, walk off the pitch and end the game. Oran Doyle in the Irish Times observes: Northern …

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Beyond Civil War: What can the north learn from the south to make good on the promise of the Belfast Agreement?

body of water near bridge

“The way through this morass is to be more curious and less judgmental.” -Ted Lasso, fictional TV Soccer Coach “There was and is quite a lot to be proud of [in the modern Irish State]” was an apt final line in RTÉ’s documentary on the Irish Civil War which finished on Tuesday. It was a rare acknowledgment of an arduous journey rarely talked about in the south. That reluctance many lie in the fact that it’s only been in recent generations …

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In praise of Slugger’s Year End Review, or how humour can let the light in…

Absolutely cracking evening last week in the Black Box. In all the years the review has been running, this was my first time being able to go. Since it is Slugger’s 20th anniversary year I thought it was about time I finally got over for it. It was great to see old friends, and just to turn up and watch the team (Alex Kane, Allison Morris and host for the evening the one and only Alan Meban). It was funny, …

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North South poll reveals the key barriers to Irish unity are health, social uncertainty and the economy

Polling on the state of play of the parties is far less interesting than those which take a subject and plumb it in depth. The Irish Times IPSOS poll released over the weekend really goes for the United Ireland question in some detail. Commissioned by a group of Irish academics including Brendan O’Leary and John Garry, this survey covers both Northern Ireland and the Republic and asks a series of very searching questions around the true extent of support for constitutional …

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Realists in Scotland now know that the road to Independence is a long one…

Interesting take from The Economist on where last week’s Supreme Court judgement leaves Nichola Sturgeon and the SNP, who have vowed to turn the next election into a referendum on independence… Trying to turn an election into a referendum looks like a gambit to hold together a nationalist movement that has been pushing Ms Sturgeon to deliver results and is running out of patience: one more election, one last heave. This is a high-risk strategy. Scotland’s other parties are free …

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Judgement on Scottish Referendum makes it clear power over calling a border poll sits with Westminster too

parliament, government, edinburgh

The UK’s unwritten constitution is tricky, archaic and hard to interpret on occasions without the help of judges. There have been many calls down the ages for a written code like the US’s (and almost everywhere that was once British, including Ireland). Enter the judgement from the UK Supreme Court on whether Scotland had a unilateral right to call a referendum on Scottish independence.  The court finds that calling a referendum falls outside “the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament”. More …

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If emergency general surgery requires 24/7 consultant cover why do we still spread acute services across NI?

surgery, hospital, medical professionals

A fascinating letter emerged today from a small group of senior consultants working in the Northern Irish health service that puts its finger the key downside of our habit of electing populist political parties that have little ambition to get things done. Although its subject is health, the same analysis could be applied to almost any other area of public policy including education, infrastructure, agriculture and even climate change (a thing some DUP politicians seem to think only happens elsewhere). …

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Conversion fantasies are more damaging to a unified island than a youthful chorus of “Up the Ra…”

person standing on gray asphalt road with yellow paint

“When you get natures stirred to their depths over questions which they feel to be overwhelmingly vital, you get the bad stirred up in them as well as the good; the mud as well as the water.” — Alfred North Whitehead Last week we had the disturbing news that a Belfast academic had received threats through social media. I have to admit though it would be more disturbing if it weren’t so commonplace these days. See my reasons for leaving …

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