Flooding is our canary in the coal mine for the impact of climate change, says Sinéad McLaughlin

Belfast, Derry, Strabane and much of Ireland have suffered severe flooding problems in recent days and weeks. We know this will get even worse – with flooding become more intensive and more frequent. A new report says that climate change will be a particular problem for the West of Ireland, with even higher rainfall, leading to even more flooding.  These are not problems we can ignore. I am discussing with the insurance industry how to ensure homeowners, tenants and businesses get the …

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Hain accuses Johnson, Cameron, May of NI ‘neglect’ – and Foster for ‘lapdog’ tendency

Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron must accept part of the responsibility for the continuing “gridlock” of politics in Northern Ireland, through their failure to engage in the political process here, argues former Labour secretary of state Peter Hain. He also allocates blame to Conservative secretaries of state, with the exception of Julian Smith.  Hain says that prime ministers must recognise that their role includes strong engagement with the Northern Ireland parties, in order to keep political progress on track. “You …

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Political legacy of distrust cannot be wished away, says Donaldson 

The distrust between Northern Ireland’s political parties remains a legacy of the conflict and cannot be wished away or ignored, says DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson. He adds that the events of the Bobby Storey funeral and commemorations of dead members of the Provisional IRA mean that the Troubles remain a continuing source of tension between the largest parties. He was speaking in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast.   Jeffrey argues that not only are the British government’s legacy proposals …

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The legacy of the past can still be felt in today’s political relationships, warns O’Neill

Legacy is being discussed at length at present, following the British government’s proposals to abandon prosecutions and investigations related to Troubles’ events. But there is another toxic legacy – the impact of past events on current political relationships. That aspect of legacy is discussed with Sinn Féin Vice President and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast.  Michelle argues that political leaders must work hard to build trust, to enable the political system here to …

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More truth and honesty needed in government, and in dealing with legacy, says Colum Eastwood

Truth and honesty must be at the heart of how we deal with the legacy of the past and in how politicians in Northern Ireland govern today, says Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP and MP for the Foyle constituency. He was speaking in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast and is the third political leader to be interviewed in the series, discussing how to make progress in Northern Ireland.  Victims have been badly treated, stresses Colum, and they …

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Let’s put our values into practice in how we govern, argues Naomi Long

If we are to make progress in Northern Ireland’s society, we need to reflect carefully on our core values and ensure that these are reflected in the way government works. This is the message put forward by Naomi Long – leader of the Alliance Party and justice minister – in the second of the Holywell Trust’s Forward Together podcast interviews of Northern Ireland’s political leaders.  Among the points stressed by Naomi is that violence is not acceptable as a means …

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The Ulster Unionist Party reflects on the future of Northern Ireland

The third series of Holywell Trust’s Forward Together podcasts has heard from experts in a range of areas – including the economy, skills, education, young people’s experience, housing – and also considered best practice elsewhere. As it moves towards a close, it puts the arguments for major change in the governance of Northern Ireland to our political leaders.  In the first of this closing series of podcasts, we spoke to Steve Aiken – who at the time was still leader of the …

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Creating a high skilled economy – it begins in school

Northern Ireland’s economy has a number of weaknesses. At the heart of these is the shortage of skills – higher levels of skills moves an economy up the value chain, leading to improved productivity and greater wealth.  Too many of NI’s school leavers have lower levels of qualifications and skills than are needed for the modern economy. This reduces their prospects for obtaining well paid jobs, while some will become long-term unemployed or economically inactive. NI has the UK’s highest rate of economic inactivity.  A recent report from the Pivotal …

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Italy’s social co-ops – a model for Northern Ireland to copy?

Social care provision is in crisis across much of the world. How can the quality of care be maintained or improved? How can it be made available to those who need it? And how can social care be carried out in an affordable way without underpaying or exploiting its workers? These questions are being asked in many countries and regions. Italy has come up with its own answer – social co-operatives – and its model is being copied across much …

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Housing policy faces challenges from many directions

For all the focus on integrated education, if communities continue to live separately then little progress will be made towards integrating our society. So developing more areas of shared housing is essential if we are to make progress.  But the lack of genuinely shared communities is only one of the housing challenges facing Northern Ireland today. There is more generally a shortage of social housing, compared with demand, leading to increasing waiting lists.  This is not simply a matter of demography. It …

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Community Wealth Building

Concentration of the retail and consumer services sectors in the hands of a limited number of multinational corporations sucks wealth out of local communities and into the hands of shareholders based elsewhere. So should the response be to build the local economy by supporting independent businesses based in those localities, while maximising the spend of public and other anchor institutions in their local communities? That is the approach adopted through ‘community wealth building’, often termed ‘the Preston model’. Preston is …

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Could co-operatives inspire a better economy?

The Mondragon federation of co-operatives has been the foundation of the economy in Spain’s Basque country for decades. It was founded back in 1956 by a priest – José María Arizmendiarrieta  – who believed that the best response to the hostility and neglect of the region by the fascist dictator Franco was to develop co-operatives that relied on mutual self-help and independence.  Today there are 96 co-operatives which are members of the federation, employing more than 81,000 people. The federation includes manufacturing businesses, financial institutions, retailers and …

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Treating children fairly

While it is frequently claimed that Northern Ireland has an excellent schools system, it is clear that it is also a divided system. That division is not based only on religion, but also according to whether a pupil attends a grammar or a non-selective school, which is in turn related to the wealth of the parents. The system clearly separates children, despite the need of our society to come together to heal division. This week’s Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast …

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Can Citizens’ Assemblies help us?

In all the dozens of podcast interviews broadcast by the Holywell Trust, one idea to strengthen our society has been put forward repeatedly – citizens’ assemblies. They are not universally popular – both DUP and Conservative Party politicians have expressed concerns they would undermine the link between elected representatives and their constituents, threatening politicians’ legitimacy.  But the experience of Ireland’s citizens’ assemblies has inspired many. Assemblies provided routes to resolving politically challenging issues: same sex marriage, abortion, climate change and, now, gender inequality. And in …

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Northern Ireland today is different from 1998

Northern Ireland is a different place today, than when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. It is not just that many more people here today do not feel aligned to the traditional unionist and nationalist/republican identities, but we have many more ‘new citizens’ from other places. Lilian Seenoi-Barr is a well-known advocate for black and minority ethnic communities in Northern Ireland, as director of the North West Migrants Forum. In the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast Lilian …

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Vocational skills: Northern Ireland’s core economic weakness

Never mind Bill Clinton saying, ‘it’s the economy, stupid’, the answers to Northern Ireland’s difficulties are instead perhaps Tony Blair’s mantra, ‘education, education, education’. In fact, the main way to tackle the economic problems of Northern Ireland are arguably to focus on education and skills.  Seamus McGuinness, research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute, discusses the weaknesses of Northern Ireland’s education and skills system in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast. Although ESRI is based in Dublin, Seamus …

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Education is the key to progress

Education is the key to moving our society forward, says Tony Gallagher in the latest Forward Together podcast interview. But that has to mean much more than encouraging as many students as possible to go to university and obtain a degree. Our society has become fixated with university education, at the expense of school pupils who do not aspire to higher education. More has to be done to support children from deprived families, to encourage them through careers guidance and …

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The GFA brought peace – but paramilitaries haven’t gone away

The Good Friday Agreement ended the bitter conflict, but failed to eliminate the poison of paramilitarism. In the latest Forward Together podcast interview recorded before the loyalist street riots protesting against the Brexit Protocol and the latest paramilitary shootings in Derry, Duncan Morrow considers the limitations of the GFA. Northern Ireland remains overshadowed by paramilitaries that claim a political motivation, yet are engaged in criminal enterprises that include the drug trade, protection rackets and loan sharking. Can the GFA now …

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A new series of conversations on the future

Holywell Trust’s third series of Forward Together podcasts is launched today. As with the previous series, the focus is on how to make progress in Northern Ireland and heal our divided society. In these latest podcasts we consider some of the ideas that emerged from previous interviews – which were edited together into the book, ‘Lessons from the Troubles and the Unsettled Peace’. Unfortunately, recent events make these ideas even more relevant for urgent consideration. Suggestions discussed further in the …

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Lessons from the Troubles and the Unsettled Peace – invitation to an online book launch

A new book brings together ideas from political and civic leaders from across Northern Ireland and the island as a whole. ‘Lessons from the Troubles and the Unsettled Peace’ contains views included in blogs published over a long period on Slugger O’Toole, which were also podcasts from the Holywell Trust, a peace and reconciliation charity in Derry/Londonderry. Holywell Trust is hosting an online book launch on Tuesday, 27th October. The interviewees had considered, in particular, how we strengthen civic society; …

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