Twinterview with IoD Northern Ireland (@IoDNI)

On Thursday Basil has a quick fire interview over Twitter, known as a Twinterview, with IoD Northern Ireland (@IoDNI). Here's some of the stand out moments from the interview:


Another interesting question:

Youth unemployment - A train-wreck in slow motion

Our previous post on youth unemployment here when youth joblessness in NI rose to 22.5%.

A protestant party for a protestant people

In a previous post here ('A catholic party for a catholic people') we covered Patrick Murphy's critique of Sinn Fein in The Irish News - a party that operates to the exclusion of the protestant people of Northern Ireland. The DUP are the opposite side of the same medieval coin. As Alex Kane said:
"The DUP (along with the UUP) regards its primary task as the protection, promotion and preservation of unionist interests. Put bluntly, that means doing everything possible to undermine the republican, united-Ireland agenda. Meanwhile, Sinn Fein (with the SDLP) sees its primary task as continuing to erase, or at least blur, the signs, symbols, touchstones and benchmarks which sharply define Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom."
And as we said in the previous post here, the Assembly cannot stand if parties cannot come to realize that they owe a duty and responsibility to those people who are perceived to be on the other side.

The two worlds of Northern Ireland, Ctd

It's self-evident that the political class in Northern Ireland is entirely out of step with a people rapidly advancing in civilisation. As Mick Fealty said:
"The irony is that in general terms, sectarianism is on the slide, and mixed marriages are up and the wider population is beginning to adopt a more open view of how the world works than many of their most senior politicians." 
Politicians stand as fountainheads for the most extreme: talking singularly about the past, parades and victims. Yet, as Brian Rowan said of the parading stalemate of summer 2013, "The standoff is in one part of Belfast, and here and everywhere else, people have other worries - food, bills, jobs, education."

The effect of this cause is apathy and indifference which only sustains the bogus cause. A negative and hideous feedback loop. Taking a line from Alex Kane, moderate unionism and nationalism has been replaced with opt-out-couldn't-care-less-about-the-whole-thing-anymore unionism and nationalism. We need to break and replace the negative with a virtuous feedback loop.

This requires a two strand remedy and the dismantling of the older order. Northern Ireland needs a new generation of journalists and new politicians.

A New Generation of Journalists

Micheál Martin leader of Fianna Fáil said: "Fundamentally, a public discourse once solely focused on conflict has not evolved a new approach. There are only a handful of journalists who pay any attention to the wider cultural, social and economic dimensions of relations within Northern Ireland and between North and South."

A New Generation of Politicians

Alex Kane said: "Northern Ireland needs a new political generation, a new agenda and new political parties. It needs people who will work together to make Northern Ireland a success. It needs a generation of politicians who will refuse to accept that stalemate, mutual veto and same-old, same-old elections are the best we can hope for."

Previous posts on "The Two Worlds of Northern Ireland" series here, here, here, here, here and here.

The two worlds of Northern Irelands, Ctd with Rick Wilford

The recent Radio 4 series, 'The Young Devolutionaries' featured a number of young people from the home nations including Northern Ireland. Rick Wilford of Queen's University Belfast made a number of encouraging contributions. In particular Rick Wilford noted how, compared to precious generations, the young people of Northern Ireland are in a far different place compared to their parents. He said:
"One of the things that struck me post-devolution is how much for positive and enthusiastic they are. There isn't a deep seated animosity towards "the other". I think there is a recognition that because they share so much in common, in the sense of social media and music and so on, that they have more in common that what divides them."
The reality is that Generation Y in Northern Ireland has largely got beyond the cold and uncompromising mental categories of the Troubles. This contrasts with a political class that is very much committed to serving the more extreme, intransigent and backward looking. The asymmetry between the young person, and the political forum is sharp and brutal.

If Stormont politicians act like children then people on the street will act like children

Barton Creeth (@bartoncreeth) wrote in an article for the Queen's blog Compromise after Conflict here:
"The patterns of conversation and conflict management modeled by our political leaders matter because they filter through to all levels of society. How our politicians treat each other up in the Assembly and on television directly impacts those in interface areas, as these patterns manifest themselves in the relationships between our differing communities."
Alex Kane said something to the same effect: "The divisions at executive level mirror the divisions at street level." He added: "This isn't a peace process as such, but rather the management of stalemate. Politicians may lob words rather than bricks but the damage is similar." Barton Creeth mooted a solution: "Good relationships, at all levels of society, are the lynchpin of political stability."

Northern Ireland needs responsible, imaginative, courageous and transformative leadership, not perfunctory and tokenistic managerialism. As was written on the blog previously here, politicians needs to behave as the rest of civil society is expected to. Balanced. Well-tempered. Courteous. Not capricious, mean and wilful as so often is the case. Obama said in his inaugural speech that "the time has come to set aside childish things." Northern Ireland needs the same. Northern Ireland politicians need to set the example.

A catholic party for catholic people

Patrick Murphy wrote in the Irish News:
"By representing only nationlists, you [Sinn Fein] have abandoned the Protestant people to unionism - which is more Daniel O'Connell than Wolfe Tone. You speak of a lack of leadership among unionists - but your lack of leadership towards what should be your own Protestant people is even more marked. (Critics of the newly formed republicans - they were just Catholics with guns. The same argument today would suggest that they are now just Catholics.)"
He continued: "An Ireland united, not by a common concept of nationhood, but by deprivation. That's why we thought you might like to reconsider your position in Irish politics." As Dr Cillian McGrattan said elsewhere, "Sinn Fein reaching out to unionism strategy is a nonsense."

The same can be said for the status quo unionist parties. Alex Kane has written of the political dangers of apathy and indifference to non-traditional voters. He said: "The Assembly cannot survive if unionist/nationalist parties refuse to accept that they have responsibilities to both sides - not just their own."

Between the Tory far right and the BNP

Sometimes it's refreshing to speak plain English. To just say what everyone is thinking. Daniel Finn in the London Review of Books confronted the DUP political ideology and practice, one that is out of step with life in the 21st Century, Catholics in Northern Ireland and progressive Protestants. Daniel Finn said:
"In British political terms, the DUP slots in between the right of the Tory Party and the BNP, with a generous side-helping of fundamentalist Christianity. The party’s environment minister, Sammy Wilson, recently vetoed a government global warming campaign on the grounds that global warming isn’t caused by human activity, while another DUP stalwart, Mervyn Storey, who chairs the Stormont education committee, is trying to have intelligent design included in the school biology curriculum."

My name is Stephen and I'm a recovering apathetic

For most of my life I couldn't really care less about politics:
'Nothing ever changes...' 
'Don't vote for them, it only encourages them...' 
'The desire to become a politician should ban you from ever becoming one...' 
These quotes pretty much summed up my attitude, an attitude borne out of being a child of the 70s, being brought up in Belfast during the trouble. What had politicians ever done for me other than shout "No" or speak through the voice of an actor. I was fully aware of the troubles and like many was caught up in or close to a number of instances, never injured but close enough to realise this wasn't just a wee skirmish, this shit was real and it affected some of those closest to me greatly.

But that was life and we just mozzied on, we had never known anything different. My family had spared me the prejudices of our wee part of the world, despite the troubles having a direct affect on us. Everyone was equal, not everyone was a terrorist, not every Catholic was an IRA supporter, not every Protestant hung on Big Ian's every word.

Female politicians Reopen Washington

Republican senator Susan Collins sits with President Barack Obama of the Democratic Party 
The Telegraph in London and the New York Times have both reported that it was women Senators in the United States who helped to broker a deal that reopened Washington and put Americans back to work. Led by the well-known moderate Republican senator Susan Collins, women legislators worked to find partners on the Democrat side of the partisan divide who wanted to work together. Moving forward through bipartisanship, the women were then able to drag their male colleagues into forward action. It was the women who showed good temperament, judgement and a concern for the people by being willing to reach across the isle.

This positive and conciliatory lawmaking was characterised by the pleadings of Senator Lisa Murkoski who overcame the Tea Party to win re-election in 2010. She urged a coming together in the interest of the people. She said in the US Senate:
"I think we have a responsibility here. We have a responsibility to govern and we're not doing that right now... It's not just about the next election: it's about making sure that those people we work for are not stressing, are not anxious about what tomorrow is going to bring for them... Nobody is winning in this... Everybody is losing in this when we cannot come together."
We need the same in Northern Ireland. More women in government. More women in business. More women who will govern on a bipartisan, workmanly basis, and not along strictly partisan-sectarian lines. Politicians have a responsibility not just to govern for Portestants and unionists, or for Catholics and nationalists, but for everyone in Northern Ireland.

The two worlds of Northern Ireland, Ctd

Northern Ireland is at the same time, incredibly progressive and regressive. Lyra McKee (@LyraMckee) recently said:
"The views of the under-30s are largely absent in this debate and truth be told, most don't want to vote "Republican" or "Unionist" but for a party they believe has the best vision for Northern Ireland. Other parties just get too hung up on the constitutional question."
Previous posts on 'The two worlds of Northern Ireland' here and here.

Northern Ireland needs more mentors

Entrepreneur Eoin Lambkin and business mentor for Takker wrote in the Belfast Telegraph Business magazine that mentoring should be a key economic policy that could help drive a recovery. He said:
"I would go so far as to say that mentoring could be one of the most important economic tools at our disposal in the flight to turn around our ailing economy. There is not a region in the UK or Ireland that has not written a strategic plan that stretches out until 2020 which includes inward investment, taxation breaks, seed funding, training, increasing visitor numbers – the list goes on.  
I have not seen one plan that mentions mentoring as a ‘key’ component. Mentoring is an activity that anyone with business and social enterprise can get involved in with the potential to generate enormous long term benefits." 
This is what is happening in the city of Chicago under mayor Rahm Emanual's administration with a programme called BAM (Becoming A Man) which works with at-risk adolescents and gives them the right type of mentoring, guidance and nurturing so that they can make the right life choices. Read more on that here.

Northern Ireland should also seek to emulate the Big Brothers, Big Sisters initiative which exists throughout the United States. Read more about that movement here.

"Silent majorities don't make history"


"Silent majorities do not make history."

Christopher Hitchens, 'King Billy’s Scattered Legions', New Statesman, 1972

Perhaps it's time for the silent majority, the normal half of Northern Ireland (see here and here) and the Great Unengaged to make history by standing up and speaking against the politicians and street thugs who are so grievously damaging the Northern Ireland economy and its standing in the world? This is urgent. You can't afford to be silent. You can't afford to be indifferent. You can't afford to be neutral. As Abraham Lincoln said:

“Either way, if we surrender, it is the end of us... They will repeat the experiment upon us ad libitum.”

A silent majority is a security blanket for Northern Ireland politicians. A silent majority is that which allows bad government. It is the prop that holds together the congress of sectarian clowns. But, as Tom Hayden said, "A silent majority and government by the people is incompatible." So here's the challenge: show to the world that a majority, long silent, can make history.

Politicians need to catch up with the people, Ctd

In May 2013 former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was one of three members of the Elders, a group of global leaders that tackle issues related to conflict, met a number of young people from Northern Ireland in Dublin to hear their present concerns. Brundtland said:
"Talking to young people who have grown up with the peace process showed us that a lot more needs to be done to build a truly inclusive society. They shared their disillusionment with a political system still dominated by sectarian interests. High levels of unemployment and continuing segregation leave young people in marginalised communities particularly vulnerable to violence and this is yet to be properly addressed."


Creating a united Northern Ireland

John Cunningham - Tackle the big issues

Northern Ireland politicians need to wake up and instead of tackling one another, they need to tackle the problems that most affect people - a lack of jobs, a lack of growth, a lack of opportunities and an education system that doesn't make our young people work ready. As leading Northern Ireland businessman John Cunningham said:
"They need to look realistically at the problems that are facing the province and tackle those. I think it’s a matter for the whole community to realise that times are different now. It’s an absolute disgrace that our young people are having to leave, that we have a completely inadequate education system, that we simply cannot provide the people that can fuel an industrial programme So that’s a total disgrace that we have a divided education system. There’s just no logic to those things. And if a government is to be a government it must tackle those issues."

#Protests - 10,000 loyalists planned for November 30 in Belfast city centre

We previously recorded here that a group going by the name Loyalist Peaceful Protesters had lodged an application with the Parades Commission which would see 5,000 marchers and supporters march through the city centre on November 30 2013. This was removed and has since been reinstated for the same day, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, but with 10,000 marchers and supporters. UTV has it here. The Irish News cited a response from Glyn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Association who said:
"I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed that not only is this protest going ahead but the size of the protest on what is the busiest shopping day of the year."

We need to feel the fierce urgency of the now. Whatever you say, say something. We need to show civil intolerance of this. And let's ask as Ian Coulter did: "Where are the rights for the people trying to trade and build businesses?" Previous posts on the affect of loyalist protests brand Belfast and Northern Ireland here and here.

Pushing back against sectarianism and violence

The deputy editor of the Belfast Telegaph, Gail Walker, recently wrote an article by the titled 'I'll take Northern Ireland's real politics over the liberals' dreams' which provoked a lot of interest across social media. Many of whom were critical of Walker's tacit approval of the stasis sectarian gridlock, violent state of Northern Ireland. Here's some of the pushback comments made on Facebook. One user said:
"Middle class liberalism is a civilising influence everywhere else in the world - why does she expect Northern Ireland's equivalent to shut up? "
Journalist Lyra McKee (@LyraMcKee) made an observation which echoes our series on 'The two worlds of Northern Ireland (here and here). She said: "The views of the under-30s are largely absent in this debate and truth be told, most don't want to vote "Republican" or "Unionist" but for a party they believe has the best vision for Northern Ireland. Other parties just get too hung up on the constitutional question." Another well-known commentator said:
"Maybe she likes riots, carve up and gridlock, but I personally remain of the view that it is shite, unnecessary and completely life-denying."

Creating a united Northern Ireland, Ctd

"For too long we've been told about "us" and "them." Each and every election we see a new slate of arguments and ads telling us that "they" are the problem, not "us." But there can be no "them" in America. There's only us." 
Bill Clinton

Gay people must be brought into the debate

A 'listening event' on homosexuality held in Armagh by the Church of Ireland did not invite openly gay men or women to speak. Canon Charles Kenny of Changing Attitude Ireland, a pro-gay pressure group within the church, was highly critical and said:
"We wouldn't have a conference to talk about women with no women present. The people who oppose us fear rather than hate gays. They are frightened of having gay church people in the same room as because it's harder to demonise them. That's why they are so hostile to having occasions where gays are listened to."

The power of bringing-in and interacting with minorities cannot be underestimated. By that I mean of gay men and women speaking open and freely in society. Andrew Sullivan said in the Sunday times of June 30 2013:
"As more people know gay people, the laws that stigmatise and marginalise us seem increasingly callous and simply wrong."
For many, gay people are the bogeyman of society, unseen and unheard, which creates a negative feedback loop of suspicion, prejudice and discrimination. Lets tackle this by making the most indignant in Northern Ireland face up to today's marginalised minority.

Creating a united Northern Ireland, Ctd

Whether you're a unionist or a nationalist, we need a united Northern Ireland. A people united by a shared sense of purpose. United by mutual respect, interest and regard. United by the shared goal of creating a stable and properous country. United by the desire to create a warm, open and plural society where people want to come, start a business and raise a family. United by a sense of a shared identity. As Roger Scruton said on his recent series 'Of the People, By the People' for Radio 4:
"There has to be a first-person plural we if the many are to stay together, accepting each others opinions and desires regardless of disagreements."
Roger Scruton then explained why mutual interest and respect are so critical to creating a stable society:
"People have to take their neighbours seriously, as fellow citizens with an equal claim to protection. They do this because they see themselves as living together in a shared home.
The history of the world is proof of this. Wherever people identify themselves in ways that are not shared by their neighbours then the date falls apart at the first serious blow. Yugoslavia, Syria, Nigeria and Lebanon."
Politicians in Northern Ireland need to create a system that will transcend loyalties and give a first-person plural, not a sectarian system of them and us. Without mutual interest, respect and regard, trust, generosity and cooperation cannot exist. We need to set aside sectarian and partisan interests in order to do what is right and in the long term welfare of the country. As economist Paul Collier said on Radio 4's Start the Week of Monday 21 October 2013:
"The genius of modern society, successfully societies is building mutual regard amongst people who don't know each other."

It's not acceptabe outside Stormont, so why should politicians be able to get away with such childish behaviour?

John Cunningham speaking at the launch of efforts to devolved corporation tax to NI.
John Cunningham of the Camlin Group said that, "if [Stormont] were a business they would be bankrupt." He further said of Northern Ireland politics:
"It’s like watching children argue, arguing at school. What relevance does it have? Why don’t they put it all behind and really look and address the problems that we’re facing... They’re only going to keep us in the past. They’re not going to keep our young people at home. They’re not going to put prosperity into the Province."
For John Cunningham the proper way is all about looking forward and the future. He said, "If this place is to survive and prosper it needs to look at things in a new way." He also said that any institution which is locked in the past is irrelevant. Jeffrey Peel wholly agreed. He said that, "Cunningham’s frustration with the nonsensical, circular squabbles of tribal politicians is absolutely on the nail, of course.

If we consider for a moment what is accepted of civil society, the behaviour of Stormont politicians is neither justifiable or tolerable. If we are to create a shared country we need diplomatic statesmen. The basic premise of democratic society is that politicians will necessarily have to work and govern alongside men and women they don't see eye to eye with. Democracy therefore requires open and workmanly relations. Politicians who can actually talk and show common courtesy and decency to other lawmakers. Politicians who can compromise and make arrangements. It's not OK for our politicians to be uncompromising, intransigent, belligerent, indignant and obstructionist.

Why does everything have to be made personal?

Students at college and university would never get away with rude and incivil behaviour. People in business would never get away with it. Students and workers have to pass rigorous character and personal assessments and stand by a strict code of social norms if they want to move up in their career. The highest standards of conduct are expected and nothing less is accepted.

The kind of incivility, childishness and babyishness that characterises Stormont would never be accepted anywhere else, so why should it be OK for Stormont politicians to behave like children? Not only does this mean bad government, but it also alienates the normal, functioning sections of society who see no relevancy in the political forum. As David Trimble said, "The 'Garden Centre Prods' are appalled by the amateurish nature of our present devolution." The same applies to Catholic no doubt. Not that religion matters.

The most functional people in society don't vote which, as Mick Fealty said, is "as good as an approval, albeit a lukewarm one." And so the negative feedback loop continues. The congress of clowns sustains itself by its very childishness.

We need politicians who don't make everything personal and who don't forever live in the past but who care about the present and who, against a backdrop of rising youth unemployment, healthcare uncertainty and a failing economy, feel the fierce urgency of the now.

#Protests - 5,000 loyalists planned for November 30 in Belfast city centre

It appears that loyalist protest marchers will once again take to the streets of Belfast city centre on Saturday 30 November to mark the anniversary of the December 3 2012 decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall (see here). News reports are suggesting that the event organised by the Loyal Peaceful Protesters will host 40 bands with around 5,000 participants. The Irish News editorial of October 22 2013 said:
"Little is known about Loyalist Peaceful Protesters which has no public profile. It must be a matter of concern that a faceless, unaccountable organisation can take over the streets and damage livelihoods at enormous cost to the public purse. There is a need for common sense to prevail on the issue."
Unionism needs to lose its loathsome cowardice, stand up to loyalism and demonstrate real courage and real leadership. Loyalism is not immune or exempt from the rules that the rest of society lives by. Other people have rights and it's time they were spoken for. Let's not have Belfast or Northern Ireland become a cold-house for tourists, shoppers, wealth and job-creators. And let's ask as Ian Coulter did: "Where are the rights for the people trying to trade and build businesses?"

Previous posts on loyalist protests and their affect on Belfast and wider Northern Ireland here and here.

The two worlds of Northern Ireland, Ctd

Northern Ireland is simultaneously one of the most progressive and regressive places on the planet. Think Leah Totton (@DrLeahTotton), Hannah Nelson, James McCullagh (@JamesMc_Cullagh), Maria Doran (@Doran_Maria), Craig Gilroy, Jim Eastwood, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Oliver Jeffers, Jonathan McHugh.

Then think, violent loyalists and dissident republicans... But by who does the world define us by?

The two worlds are graphically alien to one another. However political representation has been happy and willing to snuggle up and play out to the most extreme in society. What Mick Fealty described as Stormont's "drift from real world governance." This drift has turned-off the most progressive, tolerant and non-sectarian. They just ignore the congress of clowns. And likewise, the congress of clowns is happy to ignore the most stable and capable. However, as business owner John Cunningham said, it is not they [the normal people] who need to change - they live in the real world - but it is the politicians and their clients that need to change - for they live in an alien world that has no relevance to modernity. As John Cunningham said:
"Over the past 30 years we've been arguing about the same things. There doesn't seem to be in many ways a great deal of progress made. So our world, the world of business, just tends to ignore it. It [Stormont] has no relevance to us [business]. It's not up to us to change because our attitudes are formed by the real world in which we live, the international business community."
The young, ambitious and aspirational people of Northern Ireland, both Catholic and Portestant, are of Europe, America and the real and digital world. Yes they have loyalties whether it be to Ireland, Northern Ireland or Great Britain; however they do not define themselves singularly by their nationality. As Roger Scruton said:
"Europe... has erected a high culture as a critical aparatus that allows us to put our
national culture into question if we need to."
Because, as Gore Vidal said, "Anyone who loves thier country is in such trouble. That is nonsense. Out of that has come every war, every famine and everything that is wrong in the western world."

Previous posts on The Two Worlds of Northern Ireland here and here.

Politicians have to catch up with the people

Northern Ireland is simultaneously one of the most progressive and regressive places in the world. However its politics is almost singularly regressive. In a speech at the Sinn Fein London conference John McCallister said:
"These transformed relationships have, in many ways, out-paced our politics.
Our citizens, our businesses, and our cultural figures are seeking ways to flourish in and through those transformed relationships... Their reality is a post-peace process reality. Our politics... well, we have some catching up to do."
Like the concerns raised by Patrick Murphy in the Irish News, John has laid out an important question for Sinn Fein (and one which applies just as much to the DUP and other parties): "Are you really prepared to address - and listen to - 21st century Northern Ireland and 21st century Ireland?"

Mike Nesbitt remains open to unionist unity candidates

Asked by Stephen Nolan on Monday 21 October 2013 whether there would be any more unionist unity candidates, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party said:
"Do I want to see as many pro-union MPs returned in 2015 as possible? The answer to that is yes. How do you achieve that? That is an open question."

It seems little has changed from when Alex Kane spoke of "the increasingly hapless Mike Nesbitt" in December 2012.

#Protests - The cost to Brand Northern Ireland

Whether or not Stormont ministers advocate civil disobedience, it remains that unionist ministers have stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the most extreme in society. The First Minister has also said here that we can expect more protest and unrest this Christmas. But what exactly has been the effect of the rolling unrest in Northern Ireland? Journalist Paul Gosling (@PaulGosling1) considered the cost in the October edition of the Belfast Telegraph business magazine. Paul Gosling quoted a senior accountant who wished to be unnamed: 
"I spend a reasonable amount of my week in London, speaking to people who might be potential new investors. They are incredibly sensitive to news coverage of Northern Ireland’s internal disputes. And they are from Canada, or Korea and even the Middle East. It is world-wide distribution of bad press. We try to sell the Northern Ireland economy, saying that we have people to fill senior roles, yet we have people on the news [who are rioting] that you would not want to have working for you for love nor money. That makes life much more difficult for us."
Paul Gosling then cited a business advisor who works with executives considering where to invest and stressed how important stability to those who are considering whether or not to bring inward investment into Northern Ireland:
"Investors need managers to come over for two or three years, bringing their wives, families, children. Their wives are extremely influential, particularly if they are bringing over young children, When they are over here they are incredibly impressed by the education system and by the size of Belfast – everything is so close. It’s not just about winning over the CEOs."
We should not allow Northern Ireland to become a cold house for investors. Nor should we allow city centre retail to become a cold house for shoppers or for students, tourists and domestic residents who simply want to get on with their lives. For those who continue to defend their actions by swinging the flame of civil and religious liberties, it should, in the words of Ian Coulter of the CBI, be asked:
"Where are the rights for the people trying to trade and build businesses?"

David McCann - Brother can you spare an economic policy?

David McCann on the Stephen Nolan Show

David McCann (@dmcbfs) is a researcher, academic and writer for Slugger O'Toole and The, below he has written a guest post and laid out a big challenge on the economy for people on both sides in Northern Ireland.
There are some realities in Northern Ireland that seem to remain constant. We have bitterness and mistrust among sections of the two main communities and sense of political paralysis in Stormont. But another reality which is in fact more like a nightmare is our sluggish economy which contrary to protestations of some of our political parties is not performing as well as they would argue it is.  
Northern Ireland theoretically does have a relatively low level of unemployment at around 7 per cent. However these figures hide two things, 1) the very high level of people employed in the public sector (31 per cent) and 2) the staggering levels of youth unemployment which some estimates have at being above 20 per cent.

Time to leave the country I hear you say? Well with these figures I wouldn’t blame you but to borrow the old Charles Haughey mantra of ‘come to my table with solutions’ I aim to give some positive suggestions for Northern Ireland to emerge from this dark malaise.

Northern Ireland needs to follow Washington and move past the 'shutdown'

When America was stuck in a government shutdown with much of the country involuntary furloughed and facing a catastrophic default, America needed real leadership. The morning news show, Today on Morning Joe, held a discussion with the title the "top ten political leaders we (United States) need right now."

The man who helped to create peace in Northern Ireland through the Good Friday Agreement topped the discussion. I came across this on the Democrats blog here. How very lucky we were to have such a great and capable man like George Mitchell to bring together the most intransigent of intransigents.
The US shutdown has since been cleared, Washington is now open and America is open for business once again. Northern Ireland unionism needs to do the same and make a deal, move the agenda forward and end the 'loyalist shutdown'. Leadership is not about managerialism but about moving society from where it is to where it should be. We're in a very bad place and we need real courage from both unionism and nationalism.

Previous blog on the debt we owe George Mitchell here.

#GenYNI - Where is the Post-Conflict generation?

The two worlds of Northern Ireland - Which one are you of?

 Pete Shirlow said:
"The peace process appears to be moving at two speeds in which some communities remain caught in a perpetual cycle of poverty, sectarian asperity and intra-community devotion whilst others are shifting into less antagonistic positions. These shifts are paralleled by a decline in voting and political participation."
As Mick Fealty said:
"There are two Northern Irelands. There’s a new one that is still trying to give birth to a new way of seeing the wider world, Northern Ireland’s place in it and how each citizen might relate positively to one another. And there’s the old one, breed by at least one generation of murder, betrayal not to mention remote and dysfunctional government. Every now and then someone presses a tribal button and the door swings open on the abiding suspicion, alienation and loathing between neighbours." 
David McCann said:
"Anyone who visits Belfast realises very quickly that it is a divided city with its numerous peace walls, divided services and education. Yet at its core there has always been a population that has just wanted to get on with their lives. Go into the city centre in the evening you see pubs full to the rafters with people and thousands of tourists enjoying this culturally rich city.
David then makes a critical point:
"Sadly some of the city’s politicians would rather emphasise the former aspects of this city rather than the latter."
I would go further and say, as I did on here, that while Northern Ireland is simultaneously progressive and regressive, the political representation is almost singularly regressive (typified by its permanent feudal, tribal, sectarian focus). In the face of that, you either compromise on what is most precious to you, your peace and prosperity, or you stand up, demand and vote for better representation.

Stormont do nothing politics

On August 22 2011 Alex Kane wrote that "it [had] been 5,605 days since the Northern Ireland assembly was first elected, on June 25, 1998 and practically no movement [had] been recorded in any area of politics here in all that time."

800 days later and little has changed. No meaningful programme, no agenda, no business, no focus on the issues that matter to the people. Where there is activity it's the politics of lets piss-off the other side. A grand theatre of torpidity and estrangement.

The Richard Haass talks are a grand illusion which give the impression that much is being done. Other gestures and morsels are handed out to prop up the illusion of a functioning government. Like when politicians debated the decision to privatise the Royal Mail after the decision has been stamped, sealed and placed in the out-tray. Like the latest news on the duplication of legislative effort; as the DUP's Alastair Ross is introducing a Bill on a matter that is already in the system.

The public need to demand more and better from their representatives. Alex Kane wrote in summer 2011 that "thirteen years is a long time, a very, very long time, to get your act together and do what you were elected to do." Now standing 15 years post-Good Friday Agreement, we're very quickly approaching the realm of the absurd.

The answer to policy free politics

In the last post we discussed Northern Ireland's world of policy-free politics, which kind of very much makes the "NI21, where are your policies?" debate a misnomer, non-starter, outlier and non-terrestrial. But there's a problem with living in a world of policy-free politics. As Mick Fealty said: "if there's no policies there's no politics."

The solution? According to Mick Fealty:
"The ‘former moderate’ parties can tag along for the ride, or pull back try to develop their own alternative, policy based approach and try to build some form of politics that is a functional response to the material interests of real people."
For Mick, it's about "acting 'through' the middle". He said:
"Building the strength of those who currently occupy the middle actually misses the point. What’s required is the emergence substantive political actors who are committed not to being in the middle, but who are capable of acting decisively through the middle.

In short we need inveterate deal makers who can do deals that stick and who are obsessed with more than covering up for the failures and misadventures of the past, but are instead committed to enlarging the shadow of the future."
The UUP and SDLP have given up on becoming the radical, credible alternative to the DUP/SF sectarian carve-up. This is where NI21 comes in: a party that will take a policy based approach and that will make a functional response to the material interests of real people. For example: jobs, the economy, education, healthcare and so on.

#Protests - Expect more unrest this Christmas

The Belfast Telegraph reported Peter Robinson has said the following on the coming Christmas period:
"I have heard of some proposals to hold protests leading up to the Christmas period."
Can we stand for more of this?

Youth unemployment rises to 22.5%

Unemployment has snaked upwards since 2010 as you can see from the graph below and also here.

Northern Ireland - A world of policy free politics

Since its inception NI21 has found itself under a shower of inverted criticism as opponents cat call the party for its lack of policies. The doublespeak and hypocrisy is simply breathtaking. Ventriloquising Mick Fealty, editor of Slugger O'Toole, the old-order parties in Northern Ireland practice a special and unique branch of politics: that being, "policy-free politics." As Mick Fealty said:
"Policy is little in evidence anywhere in Stormont. Nor has there been any clearly articulated ambition to focus on solving real world problems through new policy formation at the political level. The non arrival of CSI and a long promised anti poverty strategy from OFMdFM is indicative.

In the absence of meaningful content, politics is reduced to a series of controversies over Orange parades, the flying of flags, the naming of play parks. Unnoticed, and largely unrermarked upon, the intimidation of minority communities continues on a low level and out of sight of the TV cameras."
"The main act is a puppet show loosely themed around the politics of identity, which is both its greatest strength and a major vulnerability."
No policies equals no politics and deadlock at best, mismanagement and descent into conflict at worst.

GenY NI - Your country needs you

Do you remember in June 2013 when Obama implored Northern Ireland to show the world how to patch, mend and get on? To be an example to the world. Remember Hannah Nelson stood up and told a vision of hope and aspiration. Hannah's world is so much the world of the young people in Northern Ireland. In the months since, NI has been a model of dysfunction: unravelling and calling on the crutch of outside help. No courage. No transformative leadership. A vast leaderless mess alien to young people, business and much of the electorate. That's why we need you, the young people to play your part. As Barack Obama said:

"As your leaders step forward to address your challenges through talks by all parties, they’ll need you young people to keep pushing them, to create space for them, to change attitudes."
And this is the important bit:
“Because, ultimately, whether your communities deal with the past and face the future united together isn’t something you have to wait for somebody else to do — that’s a choice you have to make right now. It’s within your power to bring about change."
That's the challenge - you need to speak up, get involved and demand transformative politics. This is urgent. As Mick Fealty said, you need to "feel the fierce urgency of now." Politicians and people on the street are taking what is most precious from you, your peace, your future and prosperity and imposing a way of life that is totally unacceptable.
This blog will give a voice of opposition and leadership. A space to share ideas and to reimagine Northern Ireland. This blog is all about the community and about giving you the power to get involved, by you sharing posts on Facebook and Twitter, by you commenting directly or emailing us your thoughts and suggestions, and by submitting your thoughts directly with guest posts. This is going to be a community driven project by you - the ambitious and aspirational who want something different.
As Alex Kane said of the Obama speech:
"The next generation shouldn’t allow their future to be determined by the one-sided, self-serving narratives of some of the present generation. I really do hope enough youngsters were actually listening to Obama!"