A continent in need of a vision

Benoit Lechat, editor of the Green European Journal, and Elizabeth Meehan, professor emeritus in politics at Queen’s University, help shed a little light on some of the most urgent issues facing the European Union.

It is ironic that the year in which the European Union received arguably its highest accolade, in the shape of the Nobel Peace Prize,  has also seen faith in the European project among citizens and political leaders alike fall to new lows.

The Green movement has long been a critical friend of EU. We recognise its role in keeping the peace in most of our continent since the Second World War and the necessity of addressing serious environmental and economic issues at a higher level than the nation state. At the same time, Greens are among the fiercest critics of the continued lack of democratic accountability and transparency in parts of the EU institutions and in the Union’s failure to make the case for integration to its citizens.

Yesterday I joined Greens from at least eight European countries in Dublin for a discussion on the future of Europe, one of a series of such events taking place across the continent as we work to set out a Green vision for the EU ahead of the 2014 election to the European Parliament. Continue reading

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Mild mannered? Us?

Ross Brown – face of a new, more combative Green Party?

A different side to the Green Party was on display at the weekend’s annual conference.

Up to now, the Greens have typically been regarded as a ‘nice,’  ‘mild mannered’ party. And while I agree that we should always be positive and constructive, avoiding oppositionism for its own sake, I can’t help but feel there are plenty of things to be angry about to justify a more combative approach at times.

Well, you got it. European Election nominee Ross Brown was unveiled to the world on Saturday and wasted no time delivering a long overdue wake-up call to our current leaders. In brief: the peace process is over. Relative absence of violence is no longer an adequate measure of success. Time to start delivering a better Northern Ireland. Continue reading

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Welfare reform an attack on the most vulnerable

There isn’t much I can say on the Welfare Reform Bill that has not already been said by Steven Agnew…

“My Party is unable to support this Bill as it stands as it is part of a wider economic strategy which we fundamentally oppose.

“We are a party formed on the principle of social justice and these so called ‘reforms’ do not deliver that for the vast majority. Continue reading

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‘Abortion clinic’ hysteria confuses the issue

Please note: the Green Party treats abortion as an issue of individual conscience. Opinions expressed on this page are therefore my own and do not necessarily reflect party policy or the views of any other Green Party member.

The media storm generated by news of the arrival of Marie Stopes International in Belfast has generated more heat than light.

As so often when these matters are discussed, any sensible debate has been drowned out by excessively emotive language, misinformation and conflation of what are, at heart, three separate issues. Continue reading

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Opponents of marriage equality stuck in the past

The defeat of Green MLA Steven Agnew’s Assembly motion in support of equal marriage was disappointing, if not wholly surprising.

Unionist members, who voted against the motion virtually as one, must ask themselves if they want a Northern Ireland for all or the sort of theocratic state based on a particular interpretation of Christianity that their predecessors used to warn existed in the Republic of Ireland. Continue reading

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Essential reading for Greens

The latest issue of the Green European Journal is out now.

This quarter’s focus is on the transition from crisis to a greener, more equal European economy.

The Journal can be found at http://www.greeneuropeanjournal.eu/.

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High levels of fuel poverty not inevitable

Northern Ireland’s fuel poverty strategy was launched in 2004, with the objective of reducing what was then the UK’s highest rate of fuel poverty.

At that time, one in three households in the province had to spend more than ten per cent of disposable income on energy.

This week’s meeting of the Assembly’s Social Development Committee heard that figures to be published soon will show that 50% of households now live in fuel poverty, with 13% spending more than 20% of disposable income on energy. Continue reading

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Bike hire scheme just one step in the right direction

Ann Doherty (Belfast City Council) and Andrew McMurray (Friends of the Earth) introduce Belfast’s new public bicyle hire scheme at PLACE.

Public bicycle hire schemes seem to be taking off across Europe and Belfast is somewhat belatedly joining the party.

Despite less than cyclist-friendly weather conditions, Belfast City Council’s Ann Doherty today gave an interesting insight into progress on a local answer to Vélib, the Boris Bike  and other similar projects at a lunchtime discussion hosted by Belfast Cycle City. Continue reading

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Campaigning writer inspires at Pride

Patrick Strudwick delivers the annual Amnesty Belfast Pride lecture.

Patrick Strudwick’s groundbreaking reporting for the Independent helped lift the lid on the dubious practices of ‘therapists’ who claim to be able to ‘cure’ gay people of their homosexuality.

This week, the journalist visited Belfast to deliver the annual Amnesty International lecture as part of the city’s Pride festival – a fascinating insight into his work and recent developments in the field of reparative therapies around the world. Continue reading

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Summer arrives

A typical summer’s day in Belfast

It seems I picked a good time to be out of Northern Ireland – while I was enjoying Belgium’s hottest day of the year, a friend was witnessing the above scene back in Belfast. Continue reading

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