Can Europe rise to multiple challenges?

Between the European Commission and Council offices in Brussels, a statue of someone stepping into the abyss – a metaphor for the EU today?

Some of the most interesting sessions at last week’s Greening Europe seminar focused on the many challenges currently facing the EU.

Participants expressed a level of optimism in the future prospects of the European project that seemed at odds with media representations (in the UK at least), but were in no doubt that there is work to be done. Continue reading

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Green gathering inspires

Some of the participants in the Greening Europe 2012 seminar hosted by the Green European Foundation.

One of my favourite things about green politics has always been the knowledge that my own group in Northern Ireland is just a small part of a movement spanning Europe and beyond.

So it was particularly inspiring to join activists from Green parties and other green-minded groups from 20-plus countries in Brussels for the Green European Foundation’s Greening Europe 2012 workshop over the last few days. Continue reading

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Challenges for sustainable transport

The Open University’s Stephen Potter talks sustainable transport.

The Open University Students’ Association’s recent conference provided a rare opportunity for distance learning students to catch a glimpse of what goes on at the OU’s campus in Milton Keynes.

One of the most interesting sessions of the weekend for a Green like myself was on Professor Stephen Potter’s research into sustainable transport. Potter contends that while sustainable transport is achievable, at ground level at least, policymakers are in denial about the steps that are necessary to get there. Continue reading

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University must remain open to all

The Open University Students’ Association conference in Milton Keynes.

In seven years of full-time study in Belfast I never took much interest in student politics, but I broke with habit last week when I attended the Open University Student Association’s biannual conference.

I have been an OU student for a number of years now and cannot speak highly enough of the university. No institution does more to open higher education to all, with 51% of students holding one A-level or fewer, 20% drawn from the most deprived quartile of the UK population and 14,000 declaring a disability. Continue reading

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Late opening: the problem, or part of the solution?

Ibiza after dark. The island’s liberal licensing laws stand in stark contrast to those in Northern Ireland.

A few weeks since the last post, largely because I have been on holiday, paying my first visit for five years to Ibiza.

Although the primary purpose of the trip was to attend a friend’s wedding, as a huge house music fan it would have been very rude not to take the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the club scene that took me to the island almost every year between 2002 and 2007. Continue reading

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No time for complacency, Minister told


Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland meets Community Design Team members Billy Dickson, Mark Simpson and Ann Crowe, GVRT's Jim Potts and Tommy Wilson of the Housing Focus Committee on his latest visit to the Village.


Nelson McCausland, the Minister for Social Development, returned to the Village today.

The Minister’s visit marks the commencement – at last – of work on the first phase of new social housing to be constructed as part of the regeneration of the area. Continue reading

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Greens delivering for Brighton

Cllr Bill Randall and Mark Simpson at the CIH conference in Belfast

One of my personal highlights of the CIH conference was the chance to meet Cllr Bill Randall.

Bill is the current leader of Brighton and Hove City Council – the first Green Party representative in the UK to become a council leader.

Under his leadership, Brighton has introduced a succession of reforms to position itself as one of the most progressive local authorities in these islands. In just one year, the Brighton Greens’ list of achievements would be the envy of many administrations approaching the end of their term. Continue reading

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Warning on welfare reform

Will Haire - defending the indefensible?

Concern at the likely impact of proposed reforms topped the agenda at yesterday’s Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Belfast.

Will Haire, permanent secretary at the Department for Social Development, which is charged with implementing the Conservative-led government’s assault on claimants in Northern Ireland, received a frosty reception when he insisted that slashing benefits will remove “disincentives to work” and result in thousands of people moving into employment, regardless of the province’s ongoing economic crisis. Continue reading

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Winter to summer and back again

La Côte du Down du Nord?

I have been quite an inattentive blogger of late, so just a quick update on goings-on at Easter and the surrounding period.

Given the recent return of winter, it seems hard to believe that the apparently Mediterranean scene above is actually Crawfordsburn in March – another pic below the fold. Continue reading

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Marine Bill needs improvement to fulfil potential

Mark Simpson does his bit for the marine environment as part of the recent Surfers Against Sewage beach clean at White Rocks, Portrush.

Three years after England adopted legislation for the management of the marine environment, and two years after Scotland followed suit, a Marine Bill for Northern Ireland is finally before the Assembly.

Willie Clark MLA, a member of the Environment Committee at Stormont, has described the bill as the most important piece of legislation the current Assembly will consider.

Mr Clark is probably not far from the truth. It is vital for the future of both Northern Ireland’s economy and the marine environment that this bill is got right. Unfortunately, I am not convinced that the version tabled will do the job. Continue reading

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