How Trumpian politicians “flood the media” with embarrassing issues they’re guilty of too…

man in black suit jacket

“The art of progress is to reserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order.” — Alfred North Whitehead The news that Facebook is going to let Donald Trump back on to Facebook at time when his public profile is not what it was (but apparently when speaking to those who can hear, he’s gotten a lot more extreme) has not gone down well with some. As the never Trump commentator Charlie Sykes notes in the Bulwark yesterday: The …

Read more…

As the parties gear up for one (or two?) elections – the latest Lucid Talk poll…

black and white printed textile

If the on-again off-again Assembly Election were held tomorrow, the results would look almost the same as they did last May, according to Lucid Talk’s new poll in the Belfast Telegraph. But it points to significant changes at the Council elections in May. Sinn Féin 31% (+2 from last election) DUP 25% (+4) Alliance 15% (+1) UUP 10% (-1) SDLP 7% (-2) TUV 7% (-1) Aontú 2% (+1) PBPA 1% (No change) Green 1% (-1) Before we look as the …

Read more…

Rebuilding Unionist Support for the Belfast Agreement…

A Book Full of Hope book

I read the recent LucidTalk poll published in the Belfast Telegraph that showed only 35% of unionists polled would still support the Belfast Agreement “if there was a vote on it today.” A majority of unionists at 54% would not vote for it today, with 11% saying that they “Don’t Know” or are “Not Sure” or have “No Opinion.” As a pro-Agreement unionist, I am saddened by the results but I accept them. It’s been clear to me for many …

Read more…

Why hydrogen can’t solve our climate change problems

Hydrogen

One of the conversation points that I often encounter in the debate around climate change and the move to net zero/energy independence is the role that could be played by hydrogen. Like many of the other aspects of this debate, it is poorly understood, particularly among the press and policymakers.  What is hydrogen ? Chemically, it is the simplest and most plentiful element in the universe, having one proton and one electron. It’s thought that, along with a small number …

Read more…

The seven deadly sins of the DUP…

low-light photo of pink-haired woman

When I saw the headline to Brian Walker’s piece, Rather than keep slagging off the DUP over the Protocol, let’s recognise their better points, I expected to see a forensic analysis of the DUP’s 7 tests for determining whether the Protocol had been adequately reformed to meet their requirements for re-entering the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland. I was looking forward to seeing what better elements might be extracted from them that could be congruent with the EU and its …

Read more…

Offer of help with truth recovery process at Irish Council of Churches centenary service

The Irish Council of Churches (ICC) — an all-island body with membership from Protestant, Orthodox, Reformed, and independent church traditions — marked its centenary with a joint service of worship at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast. With the theme of “Celebrating our Reconciling Vision of Hope”, the special service also marked the 50th anniversary of the Ballymascanlon Talks, which led to the establishment of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting (IICM), the means by which the ICC continues to engage and collaborate with …

Read more…

“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’ …

Read more…

The Protocol Bill: the DUP’s last great hope…

silhouette of lighthouse on hill near body of water during daytime

The DUP has been reassured that the UK Government is committed to getting the NI Protocol Bill (the Bill) through Parliament. The Bill is designed to provide for unilateral UK power to disapply elements of the NI Protocol itself in certain conditions. Currently in the Report Stage in the Lords, it is approaching the end of its journey through Parliament before it’s indeterminate ping pong between Houses. The DUP has had reassurances that the current government’s leadership intends to pick …

Read more…

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 …

Read more…

All talk no action…

white neon light signage on wall

I was dropping some donations off at The People’s Kitchen foodbank on the Antrim Road yesterday. At lunchtime, there was a queue of about 20 people waiting. Now we can discuss the merits of foodbank another time, but it brought it home to me that some people are getting it tough at the moment with the whole cost of living crisis. To be frank, I have nothing but anger and contempt for our shower of useless politicians and their endless …

Read more…

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 …

Read more…

A PM (Prime Mediator), not FM-DFM, for NI

woman wearing gray jacket

Stormont is dysfunctional. The Belfast Good Friday Agreement (BGFA) was supposed to bring people together in a new era of tolerance and power-sharing. Instead, party elites have sporadically cobbled together a stuttering non-war dispensation that has rolled out mediocre governance, leaving health, RHI, education and other services as beacon exemplars of how not to run a polity. Peace dividend it is not. Good governmental efficiency it is not. There must be a better way. The BGFA is predicated upon the …

Read more…

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 …

Read more…

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 …

Read more…

An inter-governmental executive for Northern Ireland?

body of water near buildings under cloudy sky during daytime

Alex Kane and Newton Emerson are two of the foremost unionist commentators on Northern Ireland and are widely read throughout Ireland through their regular columns in the Irish Times and other newspapers. So it matters when Alex Kane concludes, in yesterday’s column, that many in the unionist community have come to the conclusion that the Strand 1 Good Friday Agreement institutions – the Assembly and Executive – are not worth saving. I have responded with a letter published in the …

Read more…

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 …

Read more…

Why the Shared Island Initiative matters…

gray stone on green grass

Nobody would ever accuse the former Taoiseach, Micheál Martin (now Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs), of being an inspirational public speaker. But listening to his speech at the big Shared Island event in Dublin Castle earlier this month, I realised he was outlining an inspiring vision of Irish people, North and South, genuinely coming together around vital shared goals and aspirations, practical and achievable and mutually beneficial. Not political unity – that remains the dangerously risky issue that continues …

Read more…

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 …

Read more…

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 …

Read more…

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 …

Read more…