How are we really doing compared to the south and GB? The public health and economic positions of coronavirus for Northern Ireland need more searching inquiry

31 Mar

North -south differences of approach to Covid 19 are hampering the chances of saving lives, according to an epidemiologist Prof Gabriel Scally.  He brings apparent authority to differences which have been aired politically but not as far as I’ve seen among other  experts. These differences should surely be resolved at a north-south ministerial meeting today. Scally writes in the Irish News.. The advice to someone in Lifford with symptoms of the disease is to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 … Read more

Varadkar is having a good crisis. This it seems, is not the time to object.

29 Mar

The Republic are doing things a little differently: joining an EU  initiative to procure much needed ventilators, sending an Aer Lingus plane to China for hospital workers’ PPE; the Gardai Commissioner calling for people in the streets to produce IDs, off licences to stay open  in contrast with  GB. The North at first followed the GB rules but has now fallen into line with the south. The consequences if the northern ban remained in force if a hard Prohibition border … Read more

From abortion to coronavirus, Westminster rule is still decisive – if they choose to exercise it

26 Mar

The situation is replete with irony.   In the absence of the Assembly a formerly inert Westminster sprung into life to enact three controversial reforms; on same sex marriage, victims’ pensions (pending) and most controversially of all, abortion. Sinn Fein which only acknowledges any legal British authority over Northern Ireland with the greatest reluctance warmly welcomed Westminster’s imposition of the most radical shift possible from the most restrictive to the most sweeping abortion regulations in these islands; while the defenders of … Read more

Major battle likely over the UK government’s latest Legacy plans.

24 Mar

For those of us who don’t provide an essential service there will be time and energy   to spare for the matters I’ve  already  drawn attention to, such as  the government’s  latest Legacy proposals  produced last week. They abruptly overturned  everything that has gone before, reached after  years of tortuous  gestation and months of consultation,  concluding in July last year. They were contained in a brief statement above the name of the new Secretary of State Brandon Lewis: Reconciliation and information … Read more

What’s in the Coronavirus Bill?

23 Mar

This week the government intends to push its Coronavirus Bill through Parliament. In its “summary of impacts” document, the government states that the bill is “temporary, emergency legislation” which intends to “provide powers needed to respond to the current coronavirus epidemic.” MPs will be expected to grapple with the 300-page bill over the course of a few days. It will, for as long as it is in operation, fundamentally change our way of life. The legislation represents the biggest diminution … Read more

Is there a spirit of the Troubles that could help see us through Covid 19?

20 Mar

Some people have been invoking “the Blitz spirit” to cope with the “war” against coronavirus. Is there a Troubles spirit that might help too?  Perhaps.   In the early 70s bombing was the grisly routine. People skirted around incidents and shopkeepers called in council workers and the glaziers, (a highly profitable trade), to clear up the mess. It helped that a chief constable’s certificate rather than insurance became the norm for claiming compensation.   For most of the time an easier normality … Read more

Government to begin holding daily press briefings on coronavirus

16 Mar

Boris Johnson or one of his senior ministers will hold daily press conferences to update the public on the fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, Downing Street has said. The Prime Minister will address the media over the pandemic today alongside chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. The … Continue reading “Government to begin holding daily press briefings on coronavirus”

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There’s more to it than polling. Ireland needs more than one choice of political future.

9 Mar

Although Irish unity has been a common obsession for more a century we can only marvel at how little it has been considered as a realistic proposition. In the Republic Sinn Fein’s surge at the general election has promoted it to a higher but still uncertain place in an agenda preoccupied with economic reform.  In the GFA, the issue was from the start insulated from what really mattered at the time, the  winning of the peace and the  effective operation … Read more

On key issues, the general election survey shows the uncommitted or don’t knows are growing in number

7 Mar

Mick has dug deep for his reflections into the Northern Ireland general election survey commissioned by Liverpool University’s Institute of Irish Studies and conducted by Social Market Research (SMR). In this piece I wrote before I logged into Slugger (and I frankly don’t want to waste it) I gnaw more at the bone of opinion on unity. The survey and its questions surely show how sensitive to events is general opinion and how volatile the events affecting long lasting themes. … Read more

Culture Secretary asks if BBC ‘truly reflects’ UK after ‘missing’ key political trends

5 Mar

In his first speech to media bosses, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has raised the question of whether the BBC “truly reflects all of our nation” after it “missed” key political changes in recent years. Although Dowden did not mention Brexit, he appears to be making reference to failures to call the outcome of the 2016 … Continue reading “Culture Secretary asks if BBC ‘truly reflects’ UK after ‘missing’ key political trends”

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Ofcom says it would not seek to ‘curtail’ news websites’ editorial freedom if made online regulator

27 Feb

Ofcom has said it would not seek to “curtail the editorial freedom of news sites” if it is given powers to regulate online content. Kevin Bakurst (pictured), Ofcom’s group content director, said that concerns the watchdog would “police” the internet by shutting down websites or censoring content were “unfounded”. The Government has said it is “minded” … Continue reading “Ofcom says it would not seek to ‘curtail’ news websites’ editorial freedom if made online regulator”

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Opinion on a border poll ” on a knife edge” – the latest from The Detail

24 Feb

Here we go again.  Just a bit of cross posting here to draw attention m to a special edition of The Detail, about a border poll. The comment is based a Lucid Talk opinion poll conducted north and south, showing opinion “ on a knife edge” –   46.8%  to stay in the UK and 45.4 % for a United Ireland. The disparity now among three polls in succession can partly be accounted for by different methodology, this one on line, … Read more

How will they square the circle of unfettered access to Northern Ireland ports? Check it out on Tuesday

23 Feb

David Frost ( no, not that one, now deceased) According to the Sunday Times we will know the approach the UK will adopt for the next stage of EU withdrawal in a couple of days, now that the country has left the organisation and we are in the transition phase of less than a year.  The UK government are taking up a position of maximum distance from the EU procedures and laws quite different from the  erratic harder no softer … Read more

A border poll yields pride of place to good government at Stormont. Will the parties get the message?

18 Feb

We’re told it’s the most thorough survey of political attitudes in years                      (what, more than the NI Life and Times surveys?). It shows the graph has tilted over a just a little more in favour of united Ireland, confirming that those who Don’t Know or declined to answer – an  odd description of the middle ground – hold the balance.  I’m caught between concern about growing tension as the day … Read more

Tory MPs hit back at plans to force BBC to downsize and move to subscription model

17 Feb

A Conservative MP has warned his own party against “picking a potentially unpopular fight” with the BBC. Huw Merriman warned the corporation “should not be a target” after reports suggested the Conservative Party is considering widespread changes including scrapping the licence fee. In a column in today’s Daily Telegraph, he wrote that the Conservatives did … Continue reading “Tory MPs hit back at plans to force BBC to downsize and move to subscription model”

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Oliver Dowden MP named new Culture Secretary in Cabinet reshuffle

13 Feb

Oliver Dowden MP has been appointed as the new Culture Secretary in a Cabinet reshuffle, replacing Nicky Morgan in the role. Dowden (pictured) leaves his role as paymaster general and Cabinet Office minister to head up the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from today. He takes over from Baroness Morgan, who was returned … Continue reading “Oliver Dowden MP named new Culture Secretary in Cabinet reshuffle”

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Oliver Dowden MP named new Culture Secretary in Cabinet reshuffle

13 Feb

Oliver Dowden MP has been appointed as the new Culture Secretary in a Cabinet reshuffle, replacing Nicky Morgan in the role. Dowden (pictured) leaves his role as paymaster general and Cabinet Office minister to head up the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from today. He takes over from Baroness Morgan, who was returned … Continue reading “Oliver Dowden MP named new Culture Secretary in Cabinet reshuffle”

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Oliver Dowden MP named new Culture Secretary in Cabinet reshuffle

13 Feb

Oliver Dowden MP has been appointed as the new Culture Secretary in a Cabinet reshuffle, replacing Nicky Morgan in the role. Dowden (pictured) leaves his role as paymaster general and Cabinet Office minister to head up the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from today. He takes over from Baroness Morgan, who was returned … Continue reading “Oliver Dowden MP named new Culture Secretary in Cabinet reshuffle”

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Oliver Dowden MP named new Culture Secretary in Cabinet reshuffle

13 Feb

Oliver Dowden MP has been appointed as the new Culture Secretary in a Cabinet reshuffle, replacing Nicky Morgan in the role. Dowden (pictured) leaves his role as paymaster general and Cabinet Office minister to head up the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from today. He takes over from Baroness Morgan, who was returned … Continue reading “Oliver Dowden MP named new Culture Secretary in Cabinet reshuffle”

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Local TV and radio would take hit if licence-fee evasion made legal, BBC chairman warns

12 Feb

Putting the BBC behind a paywall would “diminish” its output and lead to a “weakened United Kingdom” according to the corporation’s chairman. Sir David Clementi (pictured) will say in a speech in Salford, Greater Manchester, today that BBC local TV and radio would be put at risk if licence-fee evasion is decriminalised. He will say … Continue reading “Local TV and radio would take hit if licence-fee evasion made legal, BBC chairman warns”

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Sinn Fein deserve their chance to satisfy the huge expectations their victory has aroused

11 Feb

Let’s stand back. With just one seat fewer than Fianna Fail but with quotas to spare, Sinn Fein’s claim to have gained the moral advantage has credibility in spades.  Another reading is just possible. The two centrist parties outnumber them by rather less than 2 to 1. Twice in France the  right and left  united to defeat the far right, once by joining together and last time by forming a new political party to achieve the desired result.  But France … Read more

Picture editors write to Number 10 after press photographers ‘excluded’ from historic Brexit moments with PM

6 Feb

Press photographers are being “excluded from historic moments” in British politics in favour of Boris Johnson’s new official snapper, according to a number of agencies and national picture editors. The UK Picture Editors’ Guild wrote to Number 10 this week demanding assurances that the “status quo will be preserved” and the press continue to be … Continue reading “Picture editors write to Number 10 after press photographers ‘excluded’ from historic Brexit moments with PM”

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Government says it supports media freedom as Lobby briefing boycott labelled ‘snowflakery’ by Tory MP

4 Feb

The Government has insisted it is “committed” to media freedom after political journalists staged a mass walkout over Number 10’s attempt to exclude some news titles from a press briefing. Addressing the matter in Parliament today, Conservative MPs dubbed Lobby journalists’ Downing Street briefing boycott yesterday a “storm in a Westminster bubble” and a “mass … Continue reading “Government says it supports media freedom as Lobby briefing boycott labelled ‘snowflakery’ by Tory MP”

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Asking the right questions for a better-informed public

4 Feb

Asking the right questions for a better-informed public by Allan LEONARD 28 January 2020 Representing FactCheckNI and as part of a four-person panel, I was invited to give evidence to the UK House of Lords Select Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies. Fellow witnesses were Ed Humpherson (Director General for Regulation, Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR)), Will Moy (Chief Executive, Full Fact), and Jenni Sargent (Managing Director, First Draft). This was an extension of the committee’s previous call for written … Read more