There’s been a Brexit post planned for ages, but things seem to change and each piece in time seems no longer relevant. So . . . time for a recap and quick look at where we are, which might seem not that much further on . . .
There are a sequence of events that create a mystery in the whole Brexit process to date, and is important to solve going forward. In January 2017 the Lancaster House speech set out what sort of trade and wider relationships the UK might have with the EU and the world.
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The outcry over the attendance of Jamie Bryson at the House of Commons Northern Ireland Select Committee (NIAC) misses the point. This is a hearing as part of the Committee’s look at “Devolution and democracy in Northern Ireland – dealing with the deficit.” in Northern Ireland.
The NIAC look at “dealing with the deficit” in Northern Ireland has most probably been considered timely given the seemingly on-going impasse in discussions through 2017 (and into 2018) towards restoring devolution: or not, as at present. Presumptive or with great foresight, the Review now seems of greater interest in looking forward – notwithstanding the attendance of Mr Bryson and the subsequent Alliance Party hissy fit in that regard.
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Over on This Union Graham Gudgin makes the case that there is room for a sensible outcome from UK/EU negotiations, including agreement arrangements with respect to the Irish border.
That is not the place where Leo Varadkar and his Government seem to be right now.
In this week’s Spectator, James Forsyth calls out the dangerous gamble that is the Irish Government’s most recent position, within a wider and clear-headed report of where the UK / EU negotiations stand at present.
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Over the summer months, while things were/weren’t intense/deadlocked up on Stormont Hill, the News Letter published a series of letters and responses that provided an interesting distraction from an otherwise dull news agenda.
A little patience is required to run through the correspondence the series of letters between UUP and Alliance Party Councillors and MLAs; the subject matter ranging from bonfires to blitz, and of course an Irish language Act. What is interesting is the nature of the Alliance proposition across the points raised.
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United Ireland, inevitability and Brexit.
In his excellent study of Ideology and the Irish Question, Paul Bew quoted a Ballymoney Free Press editorial of May 1912 at the height of the Irish Home Rule crisis. ‘The statement of Unionist Ulster’, it announced, ‘is that it merely wants to be let alone’. Unfortunately, ‘since Satan entered the Garden of Eden good people will not be let alone’.
This editorial captured a universal truth of Ulster Unionism – the desire to be ‘let alone’ – a truth with ambivalent consequences.
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The Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition has been established as part of commitments made under the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements.
Given experience, and the political background to the Commission, there must be deep reservations about any final Report; and more specifically the use of that Report beyond what any might imagine or intend.
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Back in January 2014 the DUP’s Trevor Clarke asked the Health Minister how much is annually paid to Trade Union officals. The Minister believed that within the Department and its arms length bodies the equivalent of 58 full time trade union officials were involved, at a total cost to the taxpayer estimated to be £1,840,540. The Minister said it was a spend being reviewed as he endeavoured to fund frontline services.
From information provided in an extensive FOI project the total cost to the taxpayer afforded to Trade Unions by the many levels of government administration in Northern Ireland is perhaps around £4.5 million. That doesn’t include agency or replacement in an essential frontline service. Nor is this a complete picture, with many public sector bodies reporting that they do not keep accurate records.
What arises from an overview of the data is that there is are no rules as to what constitutes facility time. There are two many estimates reported. Too often no records are kept at all. Facility time, it would seem, is what the Trade Unions say it is.
At a time when frontline services and budgets are under intense pressure, the taxpayer must ask if such a huge sum is justified, almost always increasing year on year. Surely, at the very least, a small service fee could be charged for collecting and forwarding members dues to the Union coffers. There is evidence of only three bodies doing this across the whole of the public sector – proving it is possible.
Trade Unions in Northern Ireland have a membership of around 242,000. Unions are not poor. In 2013 the total income of Unions based in Northern Ireland was £5.7million, spending £4.9million (an excess of £800,000). Income from Northern Ireland for all Unions (GB, NI, ROI) amounted to around £28.7 million. GB based Unions received £250 million more than they spent across the UK. Across these islands total Union income amounted to more than £1 billion. *
Facility time is justified if used responsibly. The scale of taxpayer contribution to Trade Union business in Northern suggests that closer monitoring is needed – you can’t make that judgement when records simply are not kept. A £4.5 million cost to the taxpayer also suggests that perhaps time is being spent beyond what is needed for that particular employer. Trade Unions can well afford to pay the cost of time spent on exclusively Union business.
Almost two years later it would be interesting to know how that Health Ministerial review was progressing.
* source NI Certification Officer for Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations Annual Report 2013-2014.
Progressive steps: the regulatory hammer to hand.
Progressives believe they are right. No. Progressives know they are right. And to reinforce that certainty the default position is to make sure they are, by law. First response to impose that ‘rightness’ is to reach for the regulatory hammer. Read more… »
Due to a Denial of Service attack in 2014 the original thedissenter had to be taken offline. Moving hosting to a larger more secure service and putting some additional protections in hand should mean such an attack will not have similar consequences. That’s the plan. This time too, there is backup! We may have been able to recover many of the previous articles despite there having been no backup, and these will be updated and reposted/restored as soon as possible.
Full dissenting service will resume shortly.