February 11, 2021
Risk is relative. When the COVID-19 virus has been prevalent in the community, the large numbers who require hospitalisation threaten to overwhelm the health service. That has been true without a working vaccine. Now that there is vaccines being delivered it is clear the threat to the health service will decline - the risk to the NHS declines. That changes the context for the restrictions on personal freedoms.
The NI Protocol may have seemed a good idea at the time (not on this Podcast) but it is clear something is dangerously wrong, and the claims of protecting the GFA seem seriously adrift if not fundamentally disingenuous. Risk is not an absolute and can only be understood relative to the prevailing circumstances.
January 22, 2021
Ending the podcast with insightful commentary from the FT that a United Ireland is imminent because there are posh East Belfast coffee shops. Who knew? The remarkable ability to put apples and oranges together and calling it bowl of bananas is a communications trait that seems to be all too prevalent in public discourse, and perhaps the underlying theme of this Episode. The theatre of a disorganised riot becomes an 'insurrection, while democracy is lauded within a cordon of tens of thousands of armed troops. Lockdown is the only policy to 'protect the NHS', as if there was no alternative, and 'freedom' must be sacrificed for an institution of state? Slightly longer than usual, for big topics.
December 28, 2020
The pattern of bold policy announcements followed by a failure to deliver seems to be the dominant feature of 2020. Perhaps the recent UK/EU trade agreement will be an exception as it seems to be, for now) - once the NI Protocol as 'best of both worlds' is explained. That can't be said for the New Decade heralded by the resurrection of Stormont that shows little evidence of the promised 'new approach'. There is plenty to be pessimistic about in the performance of Stormont and the Northern Ireland Executive, as individual Parties and as a collective. Internationally, Trump was not as bad as he performed for the crowd, while China continues to perform economically on the back of slave labour and significant abuse of human rights.
November 28, 2020
The question is not whether or not there is a trade Agreement between the UK and EU in the first week of December. Rather it is a question of preparedness for either scenario. This episode looks at the monumental scale of unpreparedness, by just about everyone - it isn't just the UK Govt struggling with the reality of it all. There has been some general media reporting on this in recent weeks. We take the opportunity to explain the detail to make the point. In the wake of Covid, NI business needs this debacle like a hole in the head. It will be the consumer who ultimately pays.
October 16, 2020
Groundhog Days. Once again renewable energy has hit the headlines, though it seems because the funding is covered outside the Stormont budget the schemes haven't managed to elicit the level of public interest that RHI attracted. Also in the news are voices expressing concern about the NI Protocol on Northern Ireland business (particularly retail) and on the consumer. Oddly these same voices supported Theresa May's backstop, which entailed many of the same pitfalls and could have been far more damaging arguably. Finally, in the outworking of the NI Executive response to Covid, policy implementation neither seems fully 'thought-through', nor is there much substance beyond the immediate headline number and sounds of panic from the Health Department. How can messaging be clear? Consequences?
September 22, 2020
There seems to be a common thread around Governments' pronouncements around Brexit and COVID19 that creates uncertainty and confusion; and that is the ambiguous nature of much of the messaging. We are asked to believe what Government tells us, but find it hard to do so where what we are being told could be interpreted this way or that, and words are not followed through with effective action that would demonstrate certain commitment to a shared goal. Result? Rather than taking back control, there is a sense of drift and lack of direction. In the worst examples this has lead to wilful disregard of any authority, and message.
August 25, 2020
Four topics in this episode. First mixed messaging of Covid in NI, then the botched messaging on exams. Required messaging for the Union, particularly heading into the Centenary events around 2021 and the creation of Northern Ireland. Restoring a message based on evidence and reasoned debate rather enabling nationalist slogans to become received truth and a 'black taxi' tour of recent history before established fact. Bit longer than usual, big issues. Links to pieces mentioned on usual blog sites.
July 23, 2020
A small change planned for how decisions are made by Northern Ireland Ministers might be a big thing. Meanwhile the big changes needed on fundamental services that underpin any economy are not getting the focused attention needed because, look, here's a cycling strategy to get you on your bike or, there, a Boris bridge. Sometimes we forget that for all the photo-ops and tweets, nothing actually happens - take Russia for example, all that meddling and still a pariah at the upper reaches of UK foreign policy: China should take note.
July 2, 2020
There is a new Government in the Republic of Ireland, which may bring a new approach. Damage caused by Fine Gael's aggressive attitude to North/South and East/West relations may be ameliorated by the more thoughtful Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail. The performance of Sinn Fein in Belfast this past weekend has shown how unsuited they are to any coalition, with its complete disregard for anything other than its own sense of itself alone. With more examples of poor public sector management - most recently Charity Commission and LandWeb - a dysfunctional Executive on top of dysfunctional public services doesn't bode well for reform - or that the next RHI isn't just around the corner. New Decade, same failed approach.
June 5, 2020
Rather than proposals we now have 'approaches', on the Northern Ireland Protocol as part of the UK leaving the EU, and on Legacy from Secretary of State Brandon Lewis. These 'approaches' are long on ambition, short on detail. This episode looks at issues of concern in the UK Government Approach to the Protocol, and then on the current Sinn Fein hissy fit regardingVictim Pensions. Even when legislation is past and things are 'agreed' (New Decade, and it would seem New Approach from everyone but Sinn Fein) we find one Party going off on a different track - guess who?