As the UK leads in the vaccine stakes, An Taoiseach is right to call for “a two nation strategy…”

If it is true that the UK government has screwed up a lot of its response to the Coronavirus epidemic the one area in which it has excelled has been the development of the first and most practical vaccine. There are a lot of factors in that success. England is particularly strong in the area of biotech. Cities like Oxford and Cambridge have become hubs for all kinds of small industry based biotech companies such that the links between innovative …

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Can Ireland’s Churches be Something Other than a Building? New Research on Religion during the Pandemic

The annual worldwide Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18-25 January) has just passed. Over the years it has been celebrated by Ireland’s more enthusiastic ecumenists, especially those who saw inter-church cooperation as essential for contributing to the healing of societal divisions, north and south. This year, all prayers and events marking Christian Unity have been virtual, owing to the pandemic. Yet there is evidence that the pandemic could be an unexpected catalyst for inter-church cooperation. My latest research report, …

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It is intolerable that Stormont is handing back hundreds of millions of pounds to London when urgent cancer cases are being denied treatment

The news that 275 people in Northern Ireland with “red-flag” cancer have had their surgery cancelled in the past week has been followed by the tragic irony  that the  Health Service  has been forced  to hand back £90 million unspent this year to the Treasury in Whitehall . The dismal information reminds me of Irish farm produce being exported from Ireland during the Famine of the 1840s while more than a  million starved.  The theory behind it is even more …

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The deep failure to re-open Special Schools in Ireland

Ireland finds itself as the outlier in Europe for all the wrong reasons. We are the only country to have not reopened special education settings in the New Year. One of the harshest lessons the Department of Education learned during the first wave of Covid-19 in Ireland was the failure to reopen Special Education settings. It was damning and heart-breaking reading and hearing the stories of devastation the first wave of the pandemic caused for the parents of kids with …

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Brexit: it’s time to stop gloating and start making some money…

For political junkies, Brexit is the gift that keeps on giving. Every day we get a new story of how Brexit will destroy the union and cripple various sectors of the economy. For those of us who voted against it, it is hard not to have a smug I told you so attitude. But watching the excellent Ted Lasso last night one of the characters made the observation that every disadvantage is an advantage. More specifically England’s disadvantage can be …

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A border poll can be held at any time – redux

With border polls remaining a major topic of conversation, particularly following today’s Sunday Times/Lucid Talk reporting of a poll which found that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland wish a border poll to be held within the next five years, I still find that there remain widespread misconceptions around the Secretary of State’s powers to call a border poll. In particular, people still seem to think that the Secretary of State has no discretionary power to call a border …

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Belfast 4 Corners Festival starts next Sunday. All events free to watch online…

Northern Ireland’s first-ever inter-Church arts festival will proceed despite Covid-19 by going on-line. The Belfast 4 Corners Festival, now in its ninth year, co-founded by its Joint Chairs, Presbyterian minister, Rev Steve Stockman and Catholic priest, Fr Martin Magill, will live stream 30 events from January 31 to February 7. The festival announced its lineup on its website 4cornersfestival.com The festival said they had to abandon plans to invite a limited number of members of the public to attend some …

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UK breakup. The vacuum where the Union case should be stands exposed

 Will the drum roll start for a border poll and  wreck the prospects for even slim collaboration for dealing with the massive and more immediate  challenges of Covid and Brexit –  and just governing ?   Or will it promote a virtuous competition  between the DUP and Sinn Fein over which of them will be the better collaborator in government, with the hope of  wooing the uncommitted to their existential cause? Will the minor parties get squeezed or flourish amid growing …

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Free event: Reflection on Seamus Mallon – A Shared Home Place at 7pm this Tuesday…

Today is the first anniversary of the passing of Séamus Mallon, former Deputy Leader of the SDLP, former Deputy First Minister in the NI Assembly, former MP and Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Tim Attwood, Hume Foundation Secretary said: “Seamus Mallon was a tough, tenacious titan of the Peace Process. As the Irish Times said in 1999: ‘Seamus Mallon has always been there, even in the darkest of dark days, never losing faith in the primacy of politics even …

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Perhaps London will wake up at last- and also let us in on how the Northern Ireland Secretary would exercise his discretion on calling a border poll

From the Times. Not a lot of extra comment is needed.   By these measurements the narrowing margins should concentrate minds. Most concentration is inevitably focused on Scotland where Westminster has the constitutional veto absent in relation to Northern Ireland , where the  Northern Ireland Secretary has the discretion to call a referendum which the Republic is  obliged to follow  concurrently. Here the interim report by academics in London, Belfast and Dublin on  preparing for twin Irish referendums is well worth …

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