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Saturday, 26 August


Aldergrove in the 1970s: no hand baggage, no overnighting BA crews, no aerosols #20YearRule Slugger O'Toole

In the summer of 1978, transport officials in the Department of the Environment were dealing with the effect of the Troubles on the airport that was formerly known as Aldergrove.

The terminal closed to non-passengers after a 1973 rocket attack on the airports fuel storage and a bomb explosion in the freight depot.

According to papers in the ENV/13/1/68A government file [selective scans] released under the 30/20 Year Rule, the reopening of the terminal building to non-passengers was opposed in 1977 by BA pilots and cabin crew, though that was not the position taken corporately by their publicly owned employer.

Security advisors suggested that a possible maximum of just three aircraft could be secured overnight on the apron at Aldergrove. A a British Midland plane regularly stayed along with its crew.

The BA pilots were unwilling to stay in Belfast overnight, so the Trident plane operating BAs Shuttle service uplifted crews to Glasgow after the last flight of the evening, costing BA around three quarters of a million pounds annually.

An approach was made to put the crews up in the RAF mess at Aldergrove. There were also offers to accommodate crews overnight in an area of the airport previously used for the preparation of flight meals, or in a house that NI Airports owned at Aldergrove.



Republicanism needs to find its own civic core and make an appeal outside terms of religion. Slugger O'Toole

This interesting discussion on Talkback featuring our own David McCann was sparked by Graham Gudgins impassioned OpEd plea in the Irish Times yesterday. Heres the pinch-point:

If I was to ask a woman to begin a relationship and then refuse to take no for an answer, week after week, year after year, it would of course count as harassment. Article after article on Irish unity, when the answer is always the same, should be seen in the same light.

The 2016 Life and Times Survey, taken after the Brexit referendum, showed a four to one majority in Northern Ireland for staying in the UK, including a two to one majority among Catholics. What is it about no that is so difficult for opinion in the Republic to understand?

Sometimes it is hard to know whether to laugh or cry. One suggestion, apparently without irony, is that the UK may wish to pay the Republic 10 billion a year to fund Northern Ireland within a unified Ireland.

It ignores the fact that UK voters have recently taken the drastic step of voting to leave the EU, in large part to save exactly this sum of money flowing to Brussels.

David deals with most of this with civility and detail on some of the poorly reported/understood aspects of life in the Republic. However, I think Grahams strongest point in both the interview and the oped is this:

A harsh wind blowing from Dublin just makes northern unionists huddle more tightly together around the DUP. Better instead to do what was promised in the Belfast Agreement and continue to build the best of good neighbourly relations.

The current northern Republican leadership propensity to turn drama into crisis exaggerates this effect, and some of SF (and SDLP) positions over welfare reform actively increase dependence on UK state subsidy (locking in rather than moving out).

David also makes the point that state mendicancy arguments are making its way into mainstream unionist thinking too. Its a useful presentation of what we might call a civic Republicanism thats been long awaited, and much needed.

These conversations almost always come to the fore in the vacuum of a crisis, which in themselves occur because of the lack of ambition on the part of unionism and nationalism. One caller suggests the retreat to the big picture is a post Brexit panic.



Until we deal with the REAL reasons for our long hospital waiting lists we are just throwing good money after bad Slugger O'Toole

The problems in Northern Irelands health service (and in particular our constantly lengthening waiting lists) have been a recurrent topic on Slugger. Reference has been made to successive reports recommending transformation and hospital rationalization and the absence of any effective resulting action. As many of those reports have pointed out, the service here gets much more money per head than our adjacent jurisdiction England; we have more hospital beds, more doctors and more nurses. A 2014 study by the National Audit Office found that we have 42% non-clinical staff per capita than England. Remarkably the number of Admin and Clerical staff in Northern Ireland has fallen by only 0.4% since then. NI has a younger age structure than England and as health service demand increases with age, overall per capita demand should be less and our waiting lists should be shorter rather than longer.  Clearly, something is seriously wrong.

My contention is that not enough attention is paid to how well we use our existing hospitals and bed stock. It goes without saying that an expensive capital resource such as this needs to be utilized to the maximum extent possible commensurate with providing a quality service. Five specialities (General Surgery, Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, ENT Surgery, Urology and Gynaecology) account for almost 80% of those waiting over 52 weeks for hospital admission in Northern Ireland.  Using routinely available statistics I have compared Northern Ireland and England in terms of length of stay for inpatient admissions. Depending on the speciality patients remain in hospital on average between 7% and 43% longer in NI than in England (weighted average across specialities 24%). Paradoxically bed occupancy in Northern Ireland is considerably lower than in England. Were it not for these disparities it would be theoretically possible to treat at least 30% more inpatients (over 20,000) in those five specialities than at present. Bearing in mind that our clinical staffing levels are relatively good if annual inpatient admissions could be increased by only 15% (10,500) that would be more than enough to reverse the current apparently inexorable rise in inpatient waiting lists and eliminate long waits before the end of this decade.

Unfortunately, no-one in the system has any incentive to achieve this. There is no effective pressure on bureaucrats, managers or clinicians so the collective refrain is we need more money. In 2010 the universally respected historian of the NHS, Rudolf Klein, wrote about the inbuilt incentives of doctors, nurses and other providers to advertise their own claims for extra resources by drawing attention to the services shortcomings. He added: The professional cries of pain and outrage increase the political price of successful financial cost containment.  (This was nicely exemplified locally by the howls of outrage and shroud-waving from what some might describe as the usual su...


Podcast: GERS and Scottish economic prospects

Yes, this week witnessed GERSmas, the annual frenzy that accompanies the economic figures that mean all things to everyone as soon as they are released.

Derek Bateman

GERS Government Expenditure and Revenues, Scotland is an attempt by civil service statisticians to show much tax is raised in Scotland by Government bodies, and how much public money is actually spent here.Always controversial and hotly disputed, the GERS figures became the focus of debate during and after the independence referendum campaign.

Podcast regular host Derek Bateman invited Dr Craig Dalzell, an economist and co-authot of various Common Weal papers on the subject, to explain GERS and discuss their implications. The results, as ever, are fascinating and particularly to independence supporters in Scotland.

You can tune in by clicking on the audio file above, via your usual podcast channels including iTunes, or using our RSS feed: podcasts are professionally made to enhance your listening experience. Please support our ongoing media services by subscribing whatever you can afford. Thank you.

The post Podcast: GERS and Scottish economic prospects appeared first on


Church leaders dragged heels in late 1980s over gov appeal to improve community relations #20YearRule Slugger O'Toole

Rev Harold Good reignited a debate around a possible Day of Acknowledgement after his appearance at this years File an Phobail (listen back).

Its clear from this 1987 government file marked CENT/1/16/23A [selective scan] now been released under the 30/20 Year Rule that the NIO spent much of the mid to late 1980s scratching their heads and trying to find ways of encouraging the more fulsome involvement of church denominations in the peace process.

The NIO, even with 100,000 of funding on offer, was up against senior church figures who claimed that diary pressures had over many, many months prevented them finding an opportunity to discuss the issue of the churches future role in community relations activities in depth.

The senior church leaders were less than enthusiastic to government approaches, in contrast to the grass roots clerical mavericks (to use Prof John Brewers phrase from his 2011 book Religion, Civil Society, and Peace in Northern Ireland which he repeated recently at File an Phobail and on Sunday Sequence).

At one level, difficulties lay in providing government funding to bodies which would pursue particular theological agendas, occasionally at odds with each other, and the newly released file includes voluminous internal NIO correspondence around the challenge of identifying suitable vehicles to fund.

The promotion of inter-church community action groups, mainly made up of lay people, and formed in a way that would not impinge on theology or conscience was one possibility that would eventually be implemented. And the Churches Central Committee f...


Monuments tell us about ourselves as well as the past we used to celebrate

In Charlottesville or Charlotte Square: history is a nightmare that has to be confronted, says Christopher Silver.

Recent events in the United States have provoked an extensive debate about monuments to controversial historic figures, and whether they ought to remain standing in public places.

Christopher Silver

In Scotland, this debate has overlapped with a great deal of comment about the First Ministers reflections on the name of her party. In a debate at the Edinburgh Book Fesitval, Nicola Sturgeon said that if she could turn the clock back 90 years the name would be changed.

This would save the party she leads from being tagged as nationalist, a term all too readily associated with some of the worst crimes of the past century, and which Sturgeon described as hugely problematic.

It was also a quiet reference to the fact that, though eclectic, the early character of Scottish nationalism, like wider Scottish society and identity, included a clear strain of anti-Irish bigotry.

But such interrogation of the past, though it often provokes indignation from certain quarters, should always be welcomed.

Arguing with history

The urge to be able to step out of history, rather than simply plod along the course it has set us, is one of the strangest human impulses, but it is also one of the most fundamental.

You cannot look at the fabric of any of Scotlands cities, with their proliferation of statues of glowering old men, and not see some desire for immortality. Why else would these memorials demand a deliberately superhuman likeness?

Such efforts were undertaken long after the notion of immortalising the wise, wealthy and industrious stopped seeming blasphemous. But the practice was borne of the same urge: these people that you gaze up at are not quite of the same order of creation.

The building of monuments imposes a kind of perpetuity, as though old heroisms and objects of national or civic worship must never be disturbed. But the desire to tear something down does not mean erasing its memory: it is simply about accepting that, if our consciousness today is a product of history, we at least have a right not to be trapped by it.

Any political project is about starting an argument with the past and in doing so, trying to leave a stamp on the future. For some of us, our politics can lead to a desire to wish that history had not been with its brutality, its cruelty and its immeasurable suffering. We banish old words, we frown at old customs and wonder how such barbarism was ever tolerated. We tell ourselves a story and constantly edit it.

Diversity of experience



Duggers Diary: Around the world in, er, 80 days?

Duggers Diary

Social media is sooo essential to the modern politician these days, dont you think? How else would I share the minutiae of my day job with the legions of Slab acolytes so desperate to read them? How else could I indulge in political repartee on the burning issues of the age? And how else would I publicise the good causes I travel the country to support?

In celebration of the role of social media in 21st century politics and as the summer break comes to an end I would like to share just one fun-packed, policy-light week in my busy, busy schedule as I fight to keep in place a Westminster government with the same regard for Scotland as a mongoose has for an egg, and a Tory leader who has now become sadder than a one-woman Mexican wave.

Enjoy !


In Falkirk today, supporting the cutely named Wobbly Bottomed Harriers for Corbyn, as part of Labours Pension Age Twerkers Say Yes To Jeremy charity drive. Its a weekly event, so if youre over 65, you have a wobbly bottom and you dont mind shaking your booty on the pavement outside Boots the chemist in Falkirk High Street, come along and make a total arse of yourself Ive been doing it at Holyrood for years and it hasnt harmed my career one little bit!


Took part in a fund-raiser in Motherwell this morning (Its all go!). All proceeds go to preventing Indy2 until the end of time. What fun it was too. Against the clock, teams each had to smash an upright piano into pieces small enough to fit through a letterbox using nothing but toffee-hammers. As it turned out, party poopers from Health & Safety turned up and banned the entire event. I dont see why all children under 7 were accompanied by an adult. I was personally disappointed because the letterbox through which the piano pieces were to be posted belonged to Corby.


Flew the red-eye up from the Big Smoke last night. Been invited to promote the plight of a cohort of dong-nosed howler monkeys said to be living in Camperdown Park ever since a mating pair kept as pets in Broughty Ferry in 1953 escaped from their owners boot and hopped on a bus to Dundee. I had to pick the fleas out of a baboons oxters to show Labours solidarity with the ape kingdom. Great day. Felt a bit itchy at night though.


Its the annual stovie juggling fair in Kircudbright today. Its a lost art is stovie juggling but the three weeks I spent practicing prevented me working on a wizzo strategy for Scottish Labour. No harm done there then.


Up early today to take part in a reversed white water kayaking event on the river Spey. Participants in this little known sport try to propel themselves upstream against the flow of the river. You have to paddle like a bastard until your arms are spinning like whirlies in a gale, just to stay still. The c...


A Toe in the Edinburgh Fringe Jonathan Fryer

From Today Everything ChangesYesterday I was up in Edinburgh for the first time during the citys annual Arts festival, thanks to the 40th anniversary celebration of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), on whose Board I sit, at an evening reception at the National Museum of Scotland. The weather was fine, which meant I was able to spend much of the day wandering along the Royal Mile and nearby streets, drinking in the atmosphere of the street performances of the Edinburgh Fringe. In the afternoon, lured by a flyer,  I went to see one play, Ian Tucker-Bells From Today Everything Changes, at the unusually smart fringe venue of a meeting room on the first floor of the Hilton Hotel on North Bridge. Its a one act, three-hander, in which Tucker-Bell plays one of the parts along with Nick Blessley and Bizz Portlock. The central character is a sexagenarian man, Alan, who comes to realise after the death of his wife that he is actually gay and who then embarks on a quest through Gaydar to gain some experience. After some false starts he links up with Chris, a man 20 years his junior, and they fumble towards a relationship. The play is not just about a previously married man coming to terms with homosexual feelings and the challenges of inter-generational love, but also tackles human insecurity and loss. It is to the credit of the two main actors that they evoke empathy from the audience almost from the word go. There is an effective mixture of mon...


Russias surveillance state is giving us a false sense of security openDemocracy

The Russian states mass expansion of surveillance online and offline is not making citizens any safer. 

CC BY 2.0 Sascha Pohflepp / Flickr. Some rights reserved.We don't want to ban encryption, but our inability to see what terrorists are plotting undermines our security. These words dont belong to a member of the Russian parliament or Vladimir Putins adviser on the internet, but the UK Home Secretary. Its clear that Amber Rudds recent statement concerns not only digital encryption, but the whole system of state surveillance interception, listening, video surveillance and various systems for identifying individuals, including biometrics. For some reason, law enforcement agencies around the world believe that if you take everyones fingerprints, force them to register their DNA, gain access to their correspondence and make them report to the police when they visit their family in the next town over, crime will disappear.

The idea that an honest person has nothing to hide is often repeated by those for whom the concept of privacy only impedes their ability to track their fellow citizens. But you also hear it from people who clearly do have something to hide, despite the fact that they are not doing anything to violate the law. In 2016, the Agora International Human Rights Group produced its first report, revealing several hundred identified cases of politically motivated surveillance of Russian activists, journalists and NGOs when police officers photographed and fingerprinted people detained during protests, for example. Human rights defenders moving around the country regularly encounter increased attention from law enforcement agencies they are detained, searched and questioned about why theyre travelling. State and pro-state media broadcast the results of wiretaps and video surveillance of opposition politicians, which have been clearly passed to them by the security services, as well as compromising stories they have fabricated themselves. Internet services periodically warn their users that state-sponsored hackers are trying to get access to their accounts.

Human rights defenders moving around the...


The FARC arrives at Congress to become a political party openDemocracy

This Sunday, more than a thousand delegates of the Farc will gather in Bogot to discuss its future, including the new political partys name and what it will stand for. Espaol

From left to right, three ex-commanders of the Farc: Pablo Catatumbo, Timochenko and Ivn Mrquez. Photo: Courtesy of PACIFISTA. All rights reserved.

This article has been published as part of the partnership between PACIFISTA! and democraciaAbierta. You can read the original article here.

"Excited to return to my land, all of us together will build the bases of a #NuevoPartido (New Party) that gives voice to those who have been forgotten," 'Timochenko' wrote in his Twitter account August 21. Attached to his Tweet was a photo of him about to board on a place to fly to Colombia.

Despite his illness in Havana, Cuba, since early-July, the FARC commander has gathered enough strength to take place in the most important event in the guerrilla groups six decades: the congress where they will lay the foundations of the political party that will enter the electoral cycle starting next year. According to him, it was the Cuban doctors who "with their efforts guaranteed that Id be able to be in the founding congress of the new party".

The next day, the leader of the FARC met for several hours with the Central High Command of the guerrilla. At the meeting they discussed, above all, the name of the political party. On August 15, 'Ivn Mrquez' had told the media that the name of that community "will surely be called Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionara de Colombia (Alternative Revolutionary Front of Colombia). We do not want to break ties with our past, we have been and will continue to be a revolutionary front."

"Excited to return to my land, all of us together will build the bases of a #NuevoPartido (New Party) that g...


Whatever happened to the 1991 aspiration of a 95 minutes train journey between Belfast and Dublin? #20yearrule Slugger O'Toole

Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnrod Ereann set up a Joint Study Group in 1988 to consider the optimum investment policy for the cross border rail network. One option was chosen out of the eight examined and files (ENV/34/1/8 and ENV/34/1/9) [selective scans] released under the 30/20 Year Rule show how Coopers & Lybrand Deloitte won a tender in 1990 to write a more detailed report about that option.

It was envisaged that nine diesel trains a day would run at 145 kph with a reduction to the non-stop journey time to 1 hour 35 minutes.

More than 25 years later, the journey time is never less than 2 hours 5 minutes, though the current timetable makes four stops along the way between Belfast Central and Dublin Connolly (calling at Portadown, Newry, Dundalk and Drogheda).


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Friday, 25 August


Declassified papers discuss Popes possible 1989 intervention over violence in NI #20yearrule Slugger O'Toole

The Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Gerada effectively the Vaticans ambassador to Ireland had lunch with Secretary of State Tom King in Belfast to discuss a possible initiative by the Holy See over violence in Northern Ireland.

Details of the discussions are revealed in CENT/1/16/23A file [selective scan] that has now been released under the 30/20 Year Rule and can be viewed in the Public Records Office.

Gerada was the first Nuncio to attend a Remembrance Day service in Ireland, being present at the Church of Ireland St Patricks Cathedral in Dublin a few days before on 12 November 1989. He further boosted his good reputation by reaching out diplomatically to test out his proposition for the Pope to make some new move to condemn the IRA.

Writing to the NIO, the UK ambassador to Ireland Nicholas Fenn argued that Protestant church leaders particularly the Presbyterians would not accept an ecumenical invitation to stand alongside the Pope and Catholic Cardinals and Archbishops.

He was mindful that the Popes classical denunciation of the use of violence has been qualified by his views on the right to resist injustice; and this this has been used by the apostils of Liberation Theology in Latin Amer...


Tokyo's 'Black Box' exhibition creates a stir openDemocracy

A playful and record-breaking exhibition in Tokyo's Roppongi district raises questions about interplays between identity, anonymity, online life and hype.

Hitoyo Nakano. Some rights rights reserved.From 6th May to 17th June this year, Japanese artist Hitoyo Nakano (a.k.a. SAZAE Bot), held a private exhibition at ART & SCIENCE gallery lab AXIOM in Roppongi, Tokyo. Hitoyo is an artist well known for its participatory work using social media. Approximately 30,000 people attended the exhibition, creating a tremendous queue in front of the gallery, with some people waiting for over 6 hours. This breaks records in the history of Japans private exhibitions. The owner of Hiromi Yoshii gallery, Japans representative gallerist, specializes in contemporary art.

When the Black Box exhibition was announced, no information was released. Visitors were also asked to sign an agreement not to leak any facts about the exhibition until the end. In an age where information can be freely gathered from mobile devices at any time, Hitoyo has succeeded in capturing the hearts of young people by creating a completely 'unsearchable Black Box.

Bouncer at the Black Box exhibition. Some rights reserved. Worse still, after 6 hours of waiting in line for an exhibition where nobody has any idea what they are likely to see, some people were still not admitted to the gallery.

At the venues entrance was a bouncer selecting entrants but the entry criteria were not made public. You might see such a system at exclusive nightclubs such as Berghain in...


For once, no one charged in Russia's Bolotnaya Square case is officially in prison openDemocracy

That is, if you dont count psychiatric hospital or house arrest. 

Ivan Nepomnyashchikh on release. Image: Navalny Team, Yaroslavl.

We continue our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly. 

This week, Ivan Nepomnyashchikh was released from Yaroslavl Prison Colony No 1. In December 2015, Nepomnyashchikh was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for participating in mass unrest as part of the Bolotnaya Square case. Three days before he was released, the prison administration once again placed him in a punishment cell. Nepomnyashchikh had been in solitary confinement on numerous occasions, especially after he, along with a number of other prisoners, complained of being beaten by prison guards. During his sentence, he spent a total of 58 days in solitary confinement.

This means that, as of 24 August 2017, no one convicted in connection with the May 2012 protest on Bolotnaya Square is in prison. Approximately one month before Nepomnyashchikh, Dmitry Ishevsky was released from the same prison colony. However, the prosecution of Dmitry Buchenkov (who was not on Bolotnaya Square the day of the demonstration) continues. He is currently under house arrest. In addition, Maxim Panfilov, who was charged with taking part in the events on Bolotnaya Square and found by a court to be unfit to stand trial, remains in a psychiatric hospit...


Come dine with NIO three priests critique SDLP, IRA & planners in 1990 #20yearrule Slugger O'Toole

Three west Belfast Catholic priests (Lower Falls, Twinbrook and Ballymurphy) dined with three NIO officials in June 1990. A four page note in the middle of the CENT/1/16/23A file [selective scan], declassified on Friday and now available to view in the Public Records Office, documents the main points of their discussion and offers an impression of the political intelligence being gathered in this joint political affairs/community relations meal.

The SDLP made little impact in West Belfast because of lack of organisation and as a reflection of the fact that it was a party of individuals. Joe Hendron was worthy but uninspiring. Where the SDLP did well electorally it was more by way of a rejection of Sinn Fin. The West Belfast seat could be theirs for the taking at the next election or the one after that if they really organised to do it.

A critique of IRA activity was also recorded:

The IRA was less and less about the pursuit of political ends and more and more about the maintenance of its position for financial gain. There was a real risk that, even if violence ended, we would be left with a deep-rooted and dominant structure of criminal commerce unless real steps were taken to reinforce the position of the bona fide trader. Another d...


Were you still up for...? a late summer reading list openDemocracy

The shock of the general election hasnt even begun to settle down. Mark Perryman recommends some reads to help grapple with interesting times.


The audacity of hope versus the mendacity of the weak n wobbly. 20 years ago it took until the early hours before that were you still up for Portillo? moment established the sheer scale of the Tories meltdown. Two decades on this was different. Firstly, the indicator, the exit poll, came a whole lot earlier, leaving viewers with hour after hour of surprise results to look forward to.

Secondly, Labours triumph, despite missing the overall majority, was both so unexpected and based on such a radical appeal. 

In politics nothing of course stands still. Yesterdays radicalism becomes tomorrows consensus while new issues arise to challenge us to change pre-ordained positions. Rutger Bregmans Utopia for Realists  and Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth were both published prior to 8th June, now they are each required summer reading for Labour politicians and activists who might mistakenly believe that one more heave will be sufficient to dislodge the Tories and effect progressive change.

Naomi Kleins latest No Is Not Enough sets the necessity for an evolving, always more radical, project in the context of how being against is never, ever, sufficient, we need to be for too. This is one of the current generations brightest thinkers writing at her very best. Rules for Revolutionaries has a similar North American bias to Kleins book but is no less necessary to read as a result. Co-authors Becky Bond and Zack Exley draw lessons, what they call big organising, from their hands-on experience in the Bernie Sanders campaign that no serious Labour activist can afford to ignore if next time a decent second in the key 66 marginals is to be turned into a runaway first place. 



Ulster Scots now being weaponised Slugger O'Toole

Ive been following with interest the coverage of the Ulster Scots Agencys funding plan since the story was first brought to light earlier this week in the Belfast Newsletter and subsequently refried by other outlets. It was clear from the outset where the story was going as the Ulster Scots Agency CEO used a duplicitious figure ascribed to funding the Irish language, which had been used in a DUP press release as the basis for the funding he was seeking for Ulster Scots but not just Ulster Scots as it happens.

The figure of 171m being ascribed to Irish language funding and being used by the Ulster Scots Agency as the basis for their claim for 139m includes 130m which was spent on Irish medium education in the 2011/12 to 2015/16 time span.   That money would have had to be spent anyhow as those children needed education irrespective of the language used.    Contrast that with the paltry 2m being allocated in the plan to Ulster Scots education its slightly less than the 2.2m earmarked for marching bands.  Its a question of priorities.

Its curious but not unexpected that the shocking, daft and mad Ulster Scots plan is being used to attack funding for Irish. The vast bulk of the funding being attributed to Irish Language spend is being spent/invested in Irish medium education, which means it would have to be spent anyhow. Its also worth noting that Wallace approves of the funding proposed by the Ulster Scots Agency for marching bands. By what notion could marching bands be regarded as part of Ulster Scots culture? Is this not an effort to claim Ulster Scots culture as a subset of loyalist/Unionist culture so that the Ulster Scots Agency can be used as a cash cow for loyalist/Unionist projects? That is, of course, weaponising Ulster Scots, dipping it into the  sectarian cess pool so as to poison it for others.   The fact that Ulster Scots is spoken by more than just those in the loyalist/unionist community is ignored, it seems, in the pursuit of a quid pro quid arrangement between Irish and Ulster Scots.

Just as the funding priorities of Foras na Gaeilge are often questioned by those in the Irish language community much more of the funding allocated to the Irish language body which is funded by the Executive and the Dublin Government is finding its beneficiaries south of the border than the north, arguably more than the funding ratio of 25 (from the northern Executive) to 75(from the southern Government) s0 too should the funding prior...


Disaffection of SFs base will likely tie Michelle ONeills hand in Autumn talks Slugger O'Toole

Interesting piece from John Manley on Danny Morrisons latest intervention on the current impasse:

Mr Morrison told The Irish News that Sinn Fins support base had become disillusioned with power-sharing because unionists failed to reciprocate outreach gestures from the likes of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

The one-time Mid Ulster assembly member said relations began deteriorating four years ago when Peter Robinson pulled the plug on the Maze-Long Kesh peace centre.

Its about the DUP either unintentionally or deliberately misconstruing republican efforts at outreach as weakness, he said, citing other examples including the withdrawal of Irish language funding by communities minister Paul Givan and the row between the parties over welfare reform.

He said the Sinn Fin leadership had sought to remain in the executive even after the RHI scandal had gathered pace and other parties were calling for Arlene Foster to step aside as first minister.

It appeared to me, even at that stage, that Sinn Fin was still trying to preserve things but I believe the base had shifted, he said.

This last is the key. If Danny is right then Ms ONeill cannot do a deal with the DUP even if she wanted to, as he appears to concede with admirable candour, you shouldnt baulk at making the right decision because of an unfavourable consequence.

H/T Slugger reader Granni.


Irish national interests and the intolerable consequences of a disorderly Brexit. Slugger O'Toole

The deeply unsentimental Brendan Keenan is always worth reading, especially on Brexit:

When Remain Chancellor Philip Hammond and Brexit ministers Liam Fox and Michael Gove issued a statement saying the UK would indeed leave both the customs union and the single market, it looked like a hardening of the position.

It certainly showed Mr Hammond positioning himself for the party leadership. But the statement had all three in favour of a transitional arrangement after formal exit in 2019.

That is a major change for the Brexiteers. One might well ask how they could ever have thought otherwise, but they did, and it is surely an indication that this is all still to play for.

The question here is what should the Irish Government be playing for, and how should it go about it?

Heres the payload:

The Department of Finance has already calculated the intolerable consequences of a disorderly Brexit. That is a better word than hard, which implies a deliberate choice. It is clear no one who matters wants that choice now. It could still happen though.

As one official put it, Ireland is off the EU chart when it comes to the exposure of its food, indigenous manufacturing and chemical industries. It is not just agri-business, although it is the most vulnerable, with almost 50pc exposure to the UK. Apart from Cyprus at 25pc, the next most exposed, not surprisingly, are Holland and Denmark but their figure is just 10pc. Doubtless this is a concern to them, and they may be useful allies, but it is not the cataclysm it represents for Ireland.

The vulnerable sectors count for more than just their economic size. They are the sinews of the economy outside Dublin and the foundation of social life, especially in the border region. No wonder Mr Varadkar got tired of talk about cameras and off-line customs posts.

If trade is not free, or nearly so, an invisible border will make no difference to the damage done. That is why the British report on how it might operate is less relevant that the previous days one on UK intentions.

Free movement of people may well continue, irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations, but that outcome will decide the nature of the border and determine the degree of loss in Irish incomes, employment, creditworthiness and social cohesion.


if a transitional arrangement is secured, the Government is right to keep planning for the worst, as well as hoping for the best, and at least there would be some extra time to get ready.

It is in those years that any special arrangements on the island of Ireland would be negotiated.

There is much talk of the North somehow remaining in the cu...


Raqqa defiant, a letter openDemocracy

An ISIS operative explains to a friend why he still feels optimistic, in the latest of a series imagined by Paul Rogers.

Raqqa, Syria: A soldier of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) looking through a hole in a wall while battles against the Islamic State (IS) terror militia continue, 11 August 2017. Morukc Umnaber/PA Images. All rights reserved.Raqqa, 25 August 2017

Thank you for your letter. It has only just arrived as the internet connection has been sporadic, and I hope this reply reaches you soon. Thank you also for asking after my brother. Again, connections are difficult but when our associates in the Philippines asked for advice on their unexpected gains in Marawi he was immediately sent to help out.

That was always expected to be a brief operation and I understand that the leadership there was really surprised that the Filipino army offered such little resistance. Given my brothers huge experience in Iraq, Syria, Bangladesh, and especially Libya, I would not be at all surprised if he was of great value in extending the operation. However I understand that he is now moving on to Afghanistan where there are so many opportunities and so much work to do.

Although the leadership in the Philippines only has loose connections with us here, we have watched closely what happened and I hear that our strategy people are very happy with the result. When the operation started in late May the aim was simply an in and out incursion to demonstrate that the movement could take over a city if it so chose.

That it has lasted so long in spite of considerable American military assistance has been a joy to watch. Even better has been the way that government forces have been reduced to using air attacks and artillery bombardment in their chaotic attempts to retake control of Marawi. The result is scores of civilians killed, swathes of the city wrecked, and a legacy of bitterness against the government. The operation is now coming to an end but our associates are very pleased. Just when the organs of the far enemy are declaring us defeated, this is what we do!

Just when the organs of the far enemy are declaring us defeated, this is what we do!

I do sense fro...


If the Assembly cannot agree on a Troubles memorial, why not proceed without them? Slugger O'Toole

One of the glaring consequences of the mutual denying ordinance of the Sinn Fein/DUP pact was the treatment of victims of the Trouble. Virtually no provision has been made for those affected. As Newton noted yesterday, the absence of a memorial is almost of painful:

By contrast, the Titanic Memorial Garden beside Belfast City Hall is simple and moving. It lists all 1,512 victims on five brass plaques in alphabetical order, set on a marble block.

Visitors can always be found lingering at it even with no personal or ancestral connection to the disaster, it draws you in.

It also makes the lack of a similar Troubles memorial in Belfast so glaringly obvious that you have to wonder if that was somebodys intention.

However, as he also points out, thats not necessarily something the government [whats that? Ed] could or should have a veto on

It would take relatively little money and a small plot of land, preferably in central Belfast. Memorials of this nature need not be expensive a low-six figure sum is realistic, including a landscaped setting.

The churches would be well placed and suited to the task, if they could arrange it in a sufficiently ecumenical manner. The precinct of St Annes Cathedral, for example, is currently used in fact, underused as a staff car park.

It could be an ideal location.

What are we waiting on?


NIO press officer feared retaliation from some dickhead in West Belfast in 1988 #20yearrule Slugger O'Toole

When you spend a few days rapidly reading through thousands of pages of papers, awkwardly tied together with treasury tags, there comes a point when your eyes glaze over and you find yourself flicking over pages that your brain hasnt even begun to comprehend.

Then a word or a name jumps out at you.


Not the kind of word youd expect to see in the middle of a thick CENT/3/209A file, titled Information Service which is available to see in PRONI from today. [Partial scan of file.]

Not the kind of word youd expect a senior press officer to use in a typed note to the head of the NI Civil Service, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield.

The context was that the IRA had planted four bombs Semtex packed with bullets in what was described by an RUC spokesman as a necklace of death around Sir Kenneth Bloomfields Helens Bay home. At 6.15am on 12 September 1988 two of the devices exploded. The family were treated for shock. (It wasnt Bloomfields first experience of bombing, with childhood memories of Luftwaffe bomb hitting the next door neighbours house in Ballyholme.)

A month later on 19 October 1988, the Home Secretary Douglas Hurd announced the broadcasting ban that stopped representatives of organisations in Northern Ireland believed to...


Justice after ISIS: time for judicial triage openDemocracy

The overwhelming reliance on a counterterrorism framework is showing its limits. Judges and local officials in Iraq and Syria are realizing that you cannot lock everyone up.

lead Author interviewing local Tabqa residents after ISIS had been pushed out of city (July 2017) Ole Solvang/Human Rights Watch. All rights reserved.The Raqqa Civilian Council building was full of people with complaints when I visited in July. The council, based in the Syrian town of `Ayn Issa, was set up in April to govern the areas in Raqqa province that US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are retaking from ISIS. A local sheikh had come to seek the release of a relative who the SDF had detained on suspicion of being an ISIS member. Another local man was upset that the SDF had not arrested his neighbor, who he says had joined ISIS and had used his association with them to confiscate some of the local mans property.

The scene that unfolded before me in rural Syria was not just about predictable local complaints. It illustrated a difficult policy question that runs all the way from the battlefields of Iraq and Syria through key international capitals: what should justice look like after ISIS? In other words, who should be prosecuted, by whom, and for what?

The question is a complex one. While the imperative for justice is overwhelming, existing justice mechanisms are underwhelming. Sorting through and properly prosecuting the grave crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria would be a challenge for any well-resourced and fully functioning judiciary. Some of the challenges include the sheer number and types of crimes, the difficulty gathering evidence for crimes that took place in the chaos of war, and the inevitability of having to conduct these investigations in a highly politicized and polarized environment.

For the judiciaries in Iraq and Syria weak to begin with and now depleted by years of conflict and corruption it is a nearly impossible task. And to make things worse, each of those countries has different judicial systems operating in various parts of the country that either do not cooperate or are openly hostile toward one another.

Blunt instrument

To face t...


Review: Michelle & Arlene two game politicians flip flop after staying in close contact over summer Slugger O'Toole

What would it take for a politician to change their mind?

For Iain Duncan Smith, his so-called Easterhouse Epiphany around welfare and social mobility came after visiting Glasgows Easterhouse Estate in 2002. Group Think is an issue, never mind party loyalty, inherited beliefs and the reality that changing policy will affect voting patterns.

What would it take for a Northern Ireland politician to change their mind on one of any number of intractable issues?

Rosemary Jenkinson examines the possibility of Arlene Foster and Michelle ONeill flip-flopping in her fiercely satirical play Michelle & Arlene. I interviewed her a couple of weeks ago before rehearsals began and she described why she wanted to write a rapid response piece to address contemporary politics and explained the premise of the plot:

The premise is that Michelle and Arlene separately go on holiday to Ibiza but keep bumping into each other. In spite of their initial hostility, its almost as if they are fated to be closer than they ever thought possible!

I intend to stay in very close contact with Michelle ONeill over the summer.

Wearing a long blonde wig, Mary-Frances Doherty has more than a passing resemblance for Michelle ONeill. This fast talking, slightly hyper Derry woman is flying out to the wedding of two friends on the Spanish island of Ibiza. She is somewhat disturbed to discover her political opponent Arlene sitting in the Departures lounge at the airport having decided to get a bit of head space and find solitude somewhere that she wont be recognised.



Human smuggling: the tunnel underneath economic apartheid openDemocracy

American and European border policies defend economic inequality far more than national sovereignty or security.

My name is Sheldon Zhang, and I'm currently the chair of the School of Criminology and Justice Studies at University of Massachusetts Lowell. I've been working on smuggling and trafficking issues on and off for about two decades. I wouldn't say I have tons of experience, but I certainly know enough to be dangerous in the field.

I think the main problem, or the main challenge that we face as researchers of human smuggling activities, remains our inability to influence the dominant narrative that has permeated throughout government policies, global policies, as well as in global development investments and resource deployments. These views on human smuggling are still very much influenced by the criminal justice narrative or framework. In other words, you have a criminal or group of criminals, who are taking advantage of vulnerable people who want to migrate, exploiting them ruthlessly, and treating their lives cavalierly or frivolously for profit.

Anti-smuggling money is not only ill-spent, but it accomplishes very little because the desire to migrate is neither generated nor sustained by human smuggling.

In reality it's far more complex. We're not denying that there are smugglers who are taking advantage of migrants. However, it's far more common to see that smugglers are very much part of the irregular migration. They are facilitators, who have the intent to make money, but are also providing much needed services to help reduce the uncertainty and risks that migrants will otherwise have to face.

I'm not here to promote or to somehow advocate for the smugglers, but I think people taking on the uncertainties and risks to migrate are driven by a lot of causes and factors. By venturing into foreign lands or territories, they are faced with many risks and uncertainties. A smuggler, to a great extent, can help smooth the transactions  for a fee, of course.

With governments around the world investing millions upon millions of dollars to fight these so-called human smuggling activities, I see that the money is not only ill-spent, but it accomplishes very little because the desire to migrate is neither generated nor sustained by human smuggling. Quite the contrary. Human smugglers help reduce uncertainties and risks. We've seen a lot of empirical work in the field that has painted a very different picture from the dominant narrative, and I hope that somehow that researchers can get together and perhaps figure out a better way to communicate that mess...


Underground Belarusian openDemocracy

If you want your kids to grow up speaking Belarusian, youll need to fight for it. RU

Alexander Lukashenka believes "you can't say something great in Belarusian". These people think differently. CC BY 2.0: Marco Fieber / Flickr. Some rights reserved.Tatyana Borisevich (name changed) is a researcher at the History Institute of the National Academy of Sciences. Belarusian being the language spoken by her family at home, Tatyana wanted to send her daughter to a Belarusian-language kindergarten, only to find that none existed in the surrounding area. Borisevich was advised to reach out to other parents in the same position with a view to organising a children's group.

I thought our efforts would be enough to ensure Belarusian-language schooling for my daughter. The education department of the administration of Minsks Moscovsky District, where we live, were supportive and very friendly. And there was a particular cynicism in that. The official politely explained that there were no Belarusian-speaking groups near our home. They suggested that I either take my daughter to a kindergarten thats far away from us, or else that I find other local parents keen for their kids to receive Belarusian-language schooling. But I couldnt find any, Tatyana complains.

The same thing happened when Tatyanas daughter started school. Tatyana was presented with a similar choice: she could either ferry her little girl to a Belarusian school halfway across town, or she could send her to the Russian-language school down the road. Tatyana and her family are convinced that their right to choose their childs language of instruction has been infringed: We settled for Russian-language schooling because it wouldve been very difficult, physically speaking, to ferry her across town we dont have any nannies or grandmas to lend a helping hand.

A mere 1.8% of Minsks schoolchildren currently receive Belarusian-language schooling

The story of Tatyanas daughter is far from unique across Belarus: a mere 13% of kindergartners and schoolchildren (a total of 128,600 individuals) currently receive Belarusian-language schooling. According to Ministry of Education data, 49% of the countrys schools provide instruction in Belarusian; the major...


Flippin Elk! NIO bucked up their ideas to put an Elk on 1 coin in 1991 #20yearrule Slugger O'Toole

Numismatists may be interested in a thin file labelled CENT/1/15/33A [partial scan] released under the 30/20 Year Rule and available to view at Public Records Office (PRONI) from 9am this morning. It documents discussions around the design of a regional variant of the one pound coin.

Former Secretary of State Jim Prior had been a fan of using the Irish Elk as a symbol for Northern Ireland which had no recognised badge or arms of its own and required considerable pains to be taken to choose an emblem or motif which is broadly acceptable to both sides of the community.

A 1986 design for a new batch of pound coins had been knocked back by the College of Heralds who felt that the Elk design was unsuitable on heraldic ground.

An Elk represented upon a badge or shield purports to have the status of a Royal badge when in fact no Royal Warrant exists for such a design.

Earlier papers from 1986 note that the partition of Ireland has never been recognised in Royal Heraldry and now would seem to be an appropriate time to recognise it by creating a new Royal Badge for Northern Ireland.

In the end the 1986 redesign did not go ahead. A trawl for alternative suggestions among NI Permanent Secretaries put forward the Irish wolfhound, but support was not universal, with one memo noting that it may annoy NI dog-haters of whom there appear sometimes to be many. Cuchulain the hound of Ulster was also considered.



Gov pulled funding of Irish & a Protestant group complained back in 1990 (CENT/1/18/34A) #20yearrule Slugger O'Toole

Paul Givans withdrawal of funding for the Lofa Irish language bursary scheme in January 2017 is not the first time that a government minister has pulled funding of language organisations.

Some of the background to the withdrawal of government funding to Irish language organisation Glr na nGael back in August 1990 can now be seen in newly released papers under the 30/20 Year Rule. And the papers include a plea from Protestant language learners who questioned the seemingly arbitrary decision.

Glr na nGael was established in 1961. A west Belfast committee of Glr na nGael was formed as an umbrella group for Irish language organisations to coordinate entry into the competition in 1982, and from that year, west Belfast began to win prizes, including the overall trophy in 1986, 1990 and 1996. In the book Nationalists and the Irish Language in Northern Ireland: Competing Perspectives, Camille OReilly discusses how it held Irish language classes in its own premises as well as neutral venues like the Ulster Peoples College, designed to attract both Protestants and Catholics.

Without warning on 25 August 1990, the Northern Ireland Office wrote to the west Belfast Glr na nGael to withdraw their funding under the ACE scheme. No explanation was offered in the brief letter, but reference was made to a 1985 statement made by the then Secretary of State Douglas Hurd, in which he said that funds would not be made available to groups when that funding would have the effect of improving the standing and furthering the aims of a paramilitary organization, whether directly or indirectly.

Its no surprise that OReilly describes the west Belfast Gaeilgeoir as interpreting the withdrawal of funding as an attack on the Irish language and on west Belfast as a whole. She notes that the government were instead funding the newly established ULTACH Trust who wrote to the Secretary of State Peter Brooke asking him to reconsider the Glr na nGael funding decision.

The large CENT/1/18/34A file [of which Ive scanned just a few pages] contains letters to NIO ministers from individuals and organisations appealing the decision.

One letter was written in on behalf of the Protestants who have been taking part in Irish la...


Declassified files reveal government thinking about years leading up to 1991 #20yearrule Slugger O'Toole

Under the 30/20 Year Rule, the release of official files that were closed in 1991 have now been released and are available for public viewing from 9am this morning down in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland in Titanic Quarter. Some older files are included in the 791 files opened today, some with personal details and other information redacted. A further 94 records remain closed, mostly individual prisoner files.

Over the next few days, Slugger OToole will dip into the declassified files that we previewed a week or so ago and explore their contents in posts that recall events from the late 1980s and early 1990s and show how the civil service perceived and processed the policy issues of the time.

1991 was the summer that the Tall Ships first visited Belfast, with US broadcaster Walter Cronkite sent over to cover the story. File ENV/45/1 discusses the infrastructure plans for the event that was forecast to require up to 10,000 extra parking spaces to accommodate the predicted crowds that would flock to this once in a life-time event of great spectacularity.

Much political gossip is contained in the papers with NIO officials documenting differences of opinion between Hume and Mallon, Paisley and Robinson in discussions about the ongoing political talks.

Vatican diplomats were keen to explore how the Pope could positively intervene in the Troubles (CENT/1/16/23A) while church leaders in Northern Ireland were less than enthusiastic about government requests to become more involved with peace building. Three priests were taken to dinner by the NIO and their perception of SDLP effectiveness, IRA activity and planners was recorded in a four page note of the encounter.

A government...


If youve never lived in poverty, stop telling poor people what they should do openDemocracy

The key question is how to change the economy to fit the needs of everyone, not how to change everyone to fit the needs of the economy.

Rich and Poor. Credit: Flickr/Sandra Cohen Rose and Colin Rose. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Originally published on Everyday Feminism.

The brownstone I lived in for eight months in 2009 and 2010 had few amenities the building often smelled like leaking pipes, the carpets were threadbare in many places, and the steam heater in the corner was completely out of my control, resulting in quite a few freezing mornings and sweltering nights. It did, however, have a gas stove and oven which, the landlord had told me, was pretty new and worked great.

Unfortunately, everything else in the unit was electric, which meant that Id need to set up separate utility accounts and pay for the gas every month just to run the stove and range.

Its like $10 to turn it on and then another $20-$30 per month depending on how much you use it, she explained.

Yeah, Im just not going to do that, then, I thought, doing the math in my head.

At that point, $30 was just a little bit less than my take-home after a day of making lattes, which is what I was doing every day that I wasnt at my public radio internship. The rent on the apartment which was the least expensive I could find in Seattle was already going to cost well more than half of my monthly income. With student loan payments to top it off, I barely had living expenses to speak of, and the extra money Id spend on the gas just didnt seem worth it.

This wasnt my first go-round with poverty: We grew up without much money, and I supported myself through college. But after graduation when the student loan envelopes started showing up and I had to move out of my inexpensive college town to a city that actually had jobs the situation was dire. But I knew how to handle it.

Every month, Id scrutinize my budget, looking for things to trim or ways to increase my earnings.

I moonlit as a cocktail waitress. I considered selling plasma (a...


Saskia Sassen at DiEM25's "Next stop 2019?" openDemocracy

"You dont need to change everything to bring foundational change."

"So it seems to me that one question we might want to ask is: how do complex systems change? So lets think DiEM. DiEM wants to make a significant change in how things are running, the distribution of the goodies, all of that. Now if it is the case and I think that it is the case, that complex systems change not by changing everything - if you want to change everything you have a major challenge - but if they change by just shifting certain capabilities from one type of organising logic to another type of organising logic - the shift from mass consumption to the current period - then you are dealing with a very different mode from which you can intervene to change a complex system. DiEM then represents one set of dont need to change everything to bring foundational change."

CC by NC 4.0


SFs desertion of Stormont downgrades nationalisms voice to weak commentary Slugger O'Toole

On the Slugger TV on NVTV, Allison Morris pointed out that whilst SFs position on RHI was a last minute switch from backing the DUP to the hilt (perhaps having mutually agreed a fall guy), the reasons later substituted dont scan against their decade in government.

Newton Emerson joins a growing number of commentators clearly running out of patience with the patronising nonsense now flowing out of Sinn Feins energetic PR operation:

What began in January with understandable grievances has become transparently cynical opportunism. It is no exaggeration to say lives have been put at risk a UK-wide bowel cancer screening programme cannot be extended to Northern Ireland because there is no minister for health to sign it off.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fin has held an event in Derry to discuss the disastrous impact Brexit will have on the health service. The partys northern leader Michelle ONeill who was minister for health before Januarys Stormont walk-out indulged in more posturing on Monday by calling for all-party talks to begin a week early, on August 28th.

DUP former minister Simon Hamilton denounced this as a stunt. Such a response to an apparent republican olive branch would have sounded arrogant several months ago. Now it chimes with the wider mood the political editor of the Irish News concurred with Hamiltons assessment.

Emerson notes that the hysteria on mainland Britain over the DUP has subsided. In addition to that, an early election seems unlikely because:

  •  the direct price imposed by the DUP on the Tories is both bearable and light;
  • the outcome would likely make life unbearable for the Conservatives (and the Brexit process would become tricky and possibly unmanageable).

Even in early summer contacts with DUPers and ex DUPers, the consensus is that the June outcome took huge pressure off the DUP. For now, even as they forcefully advocate for a return to Stormont, they dont actually need it to be able to exert power and influence.

Newton again:

Hamilton made a particularly revealing remark in July, when discussing the prospects for talks. Sinn Fin cant demand a 10-nil win, he said. Republicans make that demand by claiming they only want previous, unmet agreements to be honoured....


Aral Balkan on an Internet of People from DiEM25's "Next Stop 2019?" event openDemocracy

"We are talking about a very different type of social system that we live in. Were talking about a corporatocracy."

"Today whether it is your smart television that you have in your home or whether its your smart phone you have or smart watch that youre wearing or a smart teddy bear that your children are playing with or a smart pill that you swallow that sends information from within you. All these modern technologies work in the same way. They work by gathering data information about us. And thats an aspect that were not going to change, thats a fact of life. The real question is who owns and controls these technologies, and the data and the insight that is being gathered about us?

Now if we can answer that question with we do, as individuals theres no problem here. We have individual sovereignty. We own and control them and we are getting smarter about ourselves. But if the answer is that corporations own and control these technologies and this data then they are getting smarter about us and by extension if this data is available to governments as we know that it is from the Snowden revelations then we are talking about a very different type of social system that we live in. Were talking about a corporatocracy."

CC by NC 4.0


LOL. Blundering Chancellor Philip Hammond blames HIMSELF for Pounds fall against Euro Pride's Purge


The last time the pound was this weak against the euro, our present chancellor Philip Hammond put the blame for the fall in sterling squarely on the shoulders of the then Labour government and chancellor:

So I wonder who Philip Hammond is going to blame now the pound has fallen to the same levels?

The tooth fairy?


Thursday, 24 August


Market fundamentalism has left Britain in the economic relegation zone - it's time for a rethink openDemocracy

Adam Smiths famous invisible hand is an out-of-control robot arm. Its time Britain adopted an evidence-based approach to economic policy. 

Two fundamental errors block new thinking on the UK economy. The first is a failure to recognise, empirically, just how poor is the UKs comparative, like-for-like performance. The second is an inability, conceptually, to abandon the dogma of market fundamentalism in domestic political culture. These errors not only consign the UK to a low-investment, low-productivity, low-income (but high-inequality) path.Two fundamental errors block new thinking on the UK economy. The first is a failure to recognise, empirically, just how poor is the UKs comparative, like-for-like performance. The second is an inability, conceptually, to abandon the dogma of market fundamentalism in domestic political culture. These errors not only consign the UK to a low-investment, low-productivity, low-income (but high-inequality) path. They also make it impossible to appreciate why this should be soand what should be done to move on to a more succeasfful (and greener) trajectory. Innumeracy and insularity Complacency about UK economic performance stems from a combination of innumeracy and insularity. It was encapsulated in the claim by the prime minister, Theresa May, in the Conservative Party manifesto for the June 2017 Westminster election, that we are already the fifth-largest economy in the world. As the House of Commons Library had explained a year earlier, this was the position of the UK in a league table of gross domestic product (GDP) using market exchange rates to generate common data in dollars, but adjustment of the data for differing price levels, or purchasing power parities (PPP), demoted the UK to ninthbehind, among others, India and Indonesia. Yet this is not the biggest problem with blowing a British economic trumpet. The UK is, of course, a state with a large population and so the meaningful comparison is of GDP (PPP) per capita. On this basis, the UK falls to 21st in the world, according to 2016 World Bank data, or 24th according to the International Monetary Fund. This is not all: the UK compensates for weak performance on GDP by a culture in a European context of long hours (engendering huge problems of work-life balance for women, given the paucity of publicly-funded childcare). So the best comparison should really be output per person per hour. This figure has flatlined since the financial crisis of 2008, after decades of...


Watch the latest Slugger TV. Allison Morris, Julia Paul and Sophie Long discuss whether the experiment with devolution at Stormont is over Slugger O'Toole

We are pleased to have Allison Morris from the Irish News guest host this edition of Slugger TV. Her guests are Sophie Long and Julia Paul. You can watch it below at it will also be on NVTV this Friday at 19:45, and repeated on Saturday at 19:45.

You can watch it below at it will also be on NVTV on Friday at 19:45, and repeated on Saturday at 19:45.


Moving past 50 plus 1 & a potential path forward Slugger O'Toole

Sinn Fein MEP, Matt Carthy was speaking at the Darcy Magee Summer School in Carlingford, Co. Louth last night;

The attempted imposition of Brexit on the North against the wishes of the majority living there who voted to remain within the EU, highlighted the undemocratic nature of Partition.

After decades of lecturing republicans about the principle of consent the refusal of the British Government to respect the expressed will of a majority of voters in the Six Counties should not be lost on anybody.

Brexit has swept away many previous assumptions about the constitutional, political and economic status quo in Ireland. All of us now have an obligation to examine new constitutional, political and economic arrangements that better suit Irelands needs in 2017.

The challenge of Brexit, puts an onus on all political parties North and South as well as the media to create space for a real debate on the prospects of a united Ireland in the future.

As Britain jettisoned its previous relationship with Europe and became increasingly insular and isolated, the appeal of being part of a new and outward-looking Ireland would prove ever more attractive to young people from a unionist background.

Some commentators and politicians had recently sought to cast doubt on whether a 50% plus-one vote would be sufficient to secure a United Ireland.

This is both mischievous and dangerous. The Good Friday Agreement is specific and unambiguous on this point.

I believe that all those in favour of Irish unity should work together with the common objective of convincing the greatest possible number of people across Ireland that Unity is in their best interest.
There is now an urgent need for a constructive, inclusive debate on our future. This must include constitutional options and what a United Ireland might look like.

Unionist representatives also need to be involved in that debate. They need to influence it. They cannot remain aloof from this discussion. Attempting to do so amounts merely to head-in-the-sand politics and does nothing to serve the interests of the people unionist parties claim to represent.

The British identity of many people in the North can and must be accommodated in an agreed, united Ireland.

This may involve constitutional and political safeguards including protections for the British cultural identity of a significant number of people in the North.

Economy and society across the island of Ireland are intertwined. The prospect of Brexit has merely served to highlight that reality. It is time to come together to design a pathway to a new, agreed and inclusive Ireland.

All our people, from all backgrounds and traditions, Orange and Green must be involved in that.

I have bolded some...

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