Are we creeping towards a harder border?

The Nationality and Borders Act achieved Royal Assent in April 2022. A period of consultation is under way on the implications for immigration tribunals etc. The mainstream GB media focus has been on issues like detention in Rwanda whilst asylum applications are considered, but of interest here is the controversial requirement for non British and Irish citizens to need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) to enter Northern Ireland from the Republic. In this OP I explore why …

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New Campaign Calls for Reopening of ‘North West Rail Corridor’ – Giving West of NI a Direct Route to Belfast/Dublin…

A campaign has been launched calling for the reopening of a key railway line that served the West of Northern Ireland up until the 1960s. Lobby group ‘Into The West’ campaigns for the improvement and expansion of rail across counties Derry/Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Donegal. The organisation was founded in 2004 when they successfully defeated a proposal by civil servants to shut the Derry-Belfast rail line west of Ballymena. Since then they have also secured a major track upgrade of …

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Electric prices down substantially today…

brown and white table lamp with light

Yesterday my electric tariff was 38p per unit. Today it is down to 17p, which is quite a drop, and not far off the 14p it was last year. The reason is the new Energy Price Guarantee scheme has come into effect. The scheme will cap the price for a unit of gas and electricity until April 2023. Bills will be reduced by up to 19.9p per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity and 4.8p/kWh for gas. The Consumer Council have …

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Some good news. Home heating oil and petrol prices are coming down…

person holding cup while reading book

Back at the start of August, home heating oil was £399 for 500 litres. It is always a dilemma to know when to buy oil, so I decided to wait and see if the price dropped any further. Instead, the opposite happened, and prices shot up to £545 for 500 litres, and I have been kicking myself ever since. But at last some good news, prices are coming down again. Here is the price per litre chart for the past …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 3 : Can it be weaponised ?

Nuclear explosion mushroom cloud

Following on from my previous articles on how nuclear power works, and why we need to rethink the dangers posed by it, it’s time to talk about the other safety-related concerns that are often raised in the debate about the viability of nuclear power. Can a nuclear power station explode like a nuclear bomb ? What happens if a nuclear power station finds itself in the theatre of military conflict, as is currently happening in Ukraine ? To deal with …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 2 : The Danger

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a little about how governments are reconsidering their attitude to nuclear power, and talked about the mechanics of how a reactor works and how it can solve the problems of getting us to net zero carbon emissions and securing energy supply in the long term.  But we can’t gloss over the bad reputation that nuclear power has. Can’t it blow up, like a nuclear bomb ? And haven’t there been a number of …

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Energy bills could reach almost £4,000 next year…

person cooking on stainless steel cooking pot

Get your jumpers ready, the cost of energy is predicted to go higher and higher this year. From the Daily Mirror: But now energy experts at BFY say energy prices could hit £3,420 in October – then £3,850 when the price cap is reviewed again in January 2023. A year ago in July 2021 the price cap was just £1,138 a year – and most energy deals were much cheaper than that. Adam Jones, senior manager at BFY Group, told …

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China is set to add at least 570 gigawatts of wind and solar power over the next five years…

white electic windmill

A report by Carbon Brief shows what is possible with Renewable Energy when you put your mind to it. From the report: Our compilation and analysis of targets and projects announced by the central and provincial governments shows wind and solar capacity would reach more than 1,100GW by 2025, tripling the 360GW total installed in 2015 and doubling the 536GW at the end of 2020. The wind and solar plans emerging from recent policymaking are far ahead of the pace …

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Pension provision in a united Ireland : redux

source : getty images

Last week I wrote an article suggesting that in the event of a united Ireland, the British government would propose that the future Irish government assume responsibility for paying the former Northern Ireland state pensions, on the basis that it would already be receiving the benefit of historic pension contributions that were invested in the form of public spending there. The article noted that this was the proposed arrangement in the event of Scottish independence (see page 139). This drew …

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The cost-of-living crisis bites as gas prices nearly double in a year…

appliance, burn, burner

For some time now, the media has been awash with the narrative on the increasing cost-of-living, with gas supply restricted by Russia’s war in Ukraine compounding already increasing wholesale prices. As such, NI’s gas providers have begun to pass this on to customers. Thousands of others across NI will have received their latest gas bills today and without a doubt would have made for eye watering reading. The figure below shows a quarterly house bill in Belfast with seasonal fluctuations …

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Home truths : pension provision in a United Ireland

source : getty images

A topic I see coming up quite often relates to the question of pension provision in a united Ireland. For such an important topic, there seems to be a great deal of misinformation. The ongoing “civic conversation” has not really addressed it properly and, unfortunately, there have even been academic papers that have sought to wave the problem away.  Most people assume that since they’ve been paying national insurance contributions to the UK throughout their life, the UK government would …

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P&O Ferries fire 800 workers…

sea, north sea, boat trip

Nothing says we value our employees more than mass firing them via a video message. It seems P&O stands for P*ss Off. Last year we went on holiday to Scotland by ferry. I remember looking at the P&O website but the brand just felt tired, Stenaline had a slicker vibe so I ended up going with them. Also the fact Stenaline left from Belfast was a real convenience. I don’t know about you but when I am choosing a travel …

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Northern Ireland’s chief fire officer resigns after six months…

From the Irish News: Peter O’Reilly is understood to have decided to walk way from the leading role at the end of last week. The senior firefighter, who was the chief fire officer in Greater Manchester at the time of the 2017 bombing at an Ariana Grande concert, only took over the post with the NIFRS in September. But it is believed that Mr O’Reilly, who is originally from Co Antrim, was frustrated by the slow progress in his efforts …

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Improving the bus experience from Dublin Airport…

luggage, travel, sunlight

I try not to gripe about things too often, preferring to concentrate on human interest stories that might at least offer in a glimpse of light amongst the grimness of the world we live in today. But I’m not a saint and although I tend to steer well clear of much political comment (I’ll leave that in the capable hands of all you other Sluggerites), I do eventually reach a point where I’ve had enough and yes, need to get …

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At several stages over the past few days over 90% of NI energy needs came from renewables…

windmills, rainbow, fields

A stunning example of the potential of renewable energy. Yesterday at 11am wind generation peaked at 1048MW while this isn't a new wind generation record it is still a terrific achievement. At that time wind power was fulfilling more than 90% of Northern Ireland's demand for electricity. (1) pic.twitter.com/GUPOT1LYKx — SONI Ltd (@soni_ltd) February 17, 2022 Currently over half of our energy needs is being met from renewable power, here is today’s fuel mix from SONI. Obviously, this is due …

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Should we speed up or slow down our roads?

highway, construction site, narrowed

Last summer we spent a few days in Enniskillen. We drove down from Belfast on a lovely clear summer morning. The roads we pretty empty and it was very easy to give in to the temptation to speed. Most drivers were driving over the limit, at one stage a police car passed me and even they were doing over 80. It got me thinking about speed. In most of Europe, the limit is 74-80mph on a motorway. The Republic is …

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How should we modernise our car MOT system?

mechanical, workshop, tire

The MOT system has not got great press in the past few years. There was the issue with the lifts, then the pandemic has caused massive delays. My car is not due its MOT until June but I thought I would be clever and book ahead. Logging into the booking system it told me there was no availability until May or June. When I tried to book for the end of May it told me that I could not book …

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The abuse of “controversial and cross-cutting”

port, pier, cargo containers

There is no doubt that the question of border checks at Northern Ireland’s ports is controversial. The question is whether Edwin Poots has the ability to ignore the law of the United Kingdom? Jamie Bryson argues that that section 20(4)(aa) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 overrides the obligations of the Northern Ireland Protocol.  It isn’t in the Programme for Government, therefore it needs to be decided by the Executive.  However, Sinn Fein state that that decision was made by …

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A Wonderful Wander Through Belfast

Belfast’s tenth annual 4 Corners Festival (30 January-6 February), begins in a week’s time. One of the aims of the inter-church festival is to inspire people to visit and explore all four corners of the city, especially areas they have not ventured before. The festival’s popular ‘Wonderful Wander’, which takes place this year on 5 February, is a guided walk that encourages people to see Belfast in a new light. Caroline Clarke from Belfast shares her experiences of last year’s …

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Plug the gap in NI’s rail network – Seven requests for the West…

When Northern Ireland was founded a century ago, an intricate network of railway lines knitted every town and city together across the jurisdiction. It was an important economic and social inheritance from the Victorian era, at a time when all transport was ‘public transport’. Within less than 50 years, however, all that had changed. In 1949 the multitude of private companies that ran individual railway lines across NI was nationalised under the Stormont-controlled ‘Ulster Transport Authority’ (UTA). The UTA was …

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