Will a post-Brexit UK replace Northern Ireland’s EU grants?

However, I expect all the money will end up “resting” in the tax-haven bank accounts of various Tory cronies.


Less snarkily, the savings from our EU contribution are going to be needed to offset the economic damage of Brexit. Whether there will be anything left over for the regions, as well as all the other programs the EU supported, is open to question.



Is Ulster University a good university?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UUJ (Jordanstown campus, near Belfast), but it was quite a few years ago – 1987–91.

What I found particularly good was that it was a teaching university, which I feel is better for undergraduate studies, when students are naturally more reliant on their tutors and lecturers. It was great to be able to nip into any lecturer’s office or lab at any time of day, and be welcomed and conversed with as a more or less equal. I spent many hours with my lecturers, chewing over the issues of the day, getting advice and one-to-one tuition – never being sent away because it was out of their ‘contact time’ (no such thing then) or otherwise inconvenient.

I have since studied and worked in research-oriented universities: nothing in my experience has changed my mind. Some of the lecturers I worked with hated students, and did everything in their power to limit student access to them. One in particular had it written into his contract that he would never be required to lecture for more than 6 hours a year – and he was one of the more approachable, student-friendly lecturers!

However, that was a long time ago, and UU has changed. Perhaps not as much as other unis, but changed nonetheless. There are certainly more opportunities to continue to postgraduate studies, and some world-class departments.

Is 38,000 GBP a good salary to live in Belfast, UK?

We are a couple with 3 kids (9, 6, and 3 years old) moving from Ottawa to Belfast UK. I have two years work experience. We have an average lifestyle, i.e., we eat outside twice a month, kids takes swimming classes, so nothing luxury. We will be renting for the first year or two.

That’s roughly my family income when I lived in Birmingham, which is pricey compared to Belfast. It was a comfortable income for a mortgage and some frills.

Rent in Belfast varies a lot – from £395 pm to over £2,000 – but there’s plenty to choose from for such a small city. Public transport was pretty good when I lived there (1984–1995), though with many of the usual complaints about lateness, etc. Driving has become difficult in recent years, I believe, with significant congestion at commuting times. Car insurance rates in Northern Ireland are typically lower than the rest of the UK (mine dropped from over £500 a year in Birmingham to just over £200 in Northern Ireland).

Some things can be dearer in Northern Ireland, such as the cost of heating and electricity. Many houses have pre-pay electricity meters, which cost less than billed electricity – as well as having the advantage of never having a bill! The range of foodstuffs might not be as great as you’re likely to be used to in Ottawa, but it is reasonably priced, and there are plenty of low-cost shopping options. Surprisingly, greengrocers and butchers can be better value than supermarkets for the same goods.

Schools are generally good. Northern Ireland schools compare very favourably to schools in the rest of the UK. Healthcare operates under the same system as the rest of the UK – free at point of need – but with no prescription charges. You will need to sign up with a GP practice and get a medical card, but you don’t need to carry the card or present it to obtain services. Things are a little up in the air at the moment, so I’m not sure if there’s a waiting period for immigrants (during which you’d need private healthcare insurance). However, if you’re working and ‘habitually resident’ in Northern Ireland, I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to sign up straightaway.

If you know roughly where you will be based for work, it might be easier to get more pertinent local advice.

Why are people angry that soldiers involved in Northern Ireland’s Bloody Sunday could be prosecuted?

There’s a kind of knee-jerk reaction to soldiers being prosecuted for anything – Our Boys Can Do No Wrong.

Wrong. Soldiers do wrong all the time. The mess canteen would never get its potatoes peeled otherwise, and stones would go unpainted. Sergeant-majors’ faces would never achieve the requisite purple hue, and they would never develop that foghorn timbre that gets them Town Crier gigs after they demob.

If a soldier accidentally fires a round, even just into the ground, with no harm done to anyone or anything, s/he’s in trouble. Negligent discharge of ammunition is a chargeable offence, with serious consequences. Firing a weapon outside specific orders to shoot is also a serious offence.

These are good things. By and large, the British Army’s fire discipline is pretty good, hence their relatively non-existent ‘friendly fire’ incidents. I’m perfectly happy for soldiers to be held to a higher standard than terrorists – as anyone should be.

What was Bernadette Devlin’s role in the troubles?

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey didn’t really ‘fit’ with the Troubles, although she was a shooting star at the very start.

From a working class Catholic background, she was a socialist, and became involved while at university in the Civil Rights Movement which was hijacked by the Troubles. As such, she had perhaps more in common with the US civil rights activists and other student activists of the late 1960s than she did with Irish nationalism. She always claimed that, despite her sympathies for the republican movement in Northern Ireland, she was essentially non-sectarian and wanted to work for all the people of Northern Ireland.

Until Mhairi Black of the SNP became a Member of Parliament, McAliskey was the youngest woman to take a seat in Westminster, at only 22, as a republican-aligned Unity politician. Her maiden speech (for, unlike other nationalist MPs, she did not practice abstention) was considered one of the best since Disraeli’s in the 1830s. In it, she tried to explain the difficulties that Northern Irish Catholics faced. Interviewed recently, she said the speech came from her political naivety: “I didn’t think the government was bad. I genuinely thought they just didn’t know and if I just went to London to tell them, people would say, ‘Do you hear that young woman there? We need to do something about that.’ But then I realised: the bastards, they do know and not only do they know, they don’t see anything wrong with it.”

She later served a prison sentence for her part in organising the working class residents of Derry in the Battle of the Bogside, and witnessed the events of Bloody Sunday in the city. Then an independent socialist MP, she gained notoriety by slapping a fellow MP, Reginald Maudling, for comments he made about Bloody Sunday.

She gave birth to a daughter, Róisín, in 1971. This was a considerable scandal as she was unmarried, and it cost her some political support amongst Catholics.

By 1974, her public political life was over. She lost her seat in parliament in the general election, and has never held political office since, despite running for election to a number of bodies.

Later that year, she helped found the Irish Republican Socialist Party, a splinter group from Official Sinn Féin, but left after a failed attempt to co-opt the Irish Nationalist Liberation Army terrorist group. I’m not sure of the details – did she leave because the attempt failed, or because the attempt was made in the first place (given her claimed non-sectarian stance, it’s interesting that the INLA had some Protestant members). However, she later supported the blanket protest and the dirty protest, and was the main spokesperson for the Smash H-Blocks Campaign, which supported the republican prisoners’ hunger strike, all of which involved INLA prisoners.

In 1981, she and her husband were shot in their home by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters.

Currently, she runs the South Tyrone Empowerment Project, which advocates for migrants.

How do Northern Irish protestants feel about the increasing likelihood of a united Ireland after Brexit?

The old guard, those who lived through the Troubles and were involved at some level in sectarianism, are crapping themselves in private, and publicly trying to pretend that a united Ireland will never happen, that Mother Britain will never abandon her red-headed stepchild. Rather like the Protestants of Donegal, almost a century ago, just before they found themselves in the Irish Free State.

The younger generation – at least, those that managed to avoid the sectarian brainwashing from their elders – don’t mind one way or another. Some would actively welcome the change.

Those are the broad strokes. There are some older people who view UI with equanimity, and some younger people who think that Ulster will continue to say no. There’s also a variation in attitudes to UI with education level, and with experience of living outside NI.

OTOH, I know some very bitter, elderly, pro-Brexit, unionist-voting Protestants who would actually like to vote Sinn Fein, if only a certain SF candidate were running.

Takes all sorts, so it does.

For the people of Northern Ireland, which is worse, A) a hard border with the Republic of Ireland or B) reunification of Ireland?


My personal preference is for Brexit to be cancelled.

I am from the Republic, but now live in Northern Ireland. My brothers live 20 minutes drive away, in the Republic. I’ve lived in various parts of the UK for all my adult life, and, purely for my own personal convenience, would prefer to stay in the UK. For me to return to the Republic would require quite a learning curve as I haven’t a notion how things like healthcare work, and I’d have all the hassle of transferring my UK accounts, child benefit, National Insurance credits, pension entitlement, private pension, etc., etc. and it’s just such a draaaaaagggg. Ugh. Then there’s the annoyance of custody and access arrangements for my half-Brit kiddo…

I was born shortly before the Troubles started, and many of my earliest memories are of nervous boy-soldiers hiding in ditches along the border, chicanes and road humps at border crossing points, and long drive-arounds because so many roads were simply closed to traffic. After the peace deal, it was glorious. Northern Ireland, Republic, UK or united Ireland, it didn’t matter – we were all European. Sure, it was irritating still having to change money – sterling to euros, and Northern Irish notes to English – and flights to Northern Ireland still boarded as far from the terminal as they could get and still be part of the same airport – but none of it mattered any more. Unionists didn’t have to worry about being forced into the cloudy grey skies of a “Free State” (a lot of them have never dropped the term), and the nationalists had as many links with the Republic as they could want (and still have their lovely free NHS). No more searches at shop entrances, no more Friday traffic standstills in Belfast as bomb disposal checked out the 20-odd bomb threats called in, no more checking the news before you went out for a drink to see if the pub you were going to was a) still standing and b) reachable without braving a ‘suspicious package’.

Now, I don’t see how a border of some kind can be avoided. It might be where the old border was, or it might be an imaginary passport boundary over the Irish Sea. It might mean many roads are closed to goods vehicles, or there could be special cameras and weighing points. People in cars and buses might be subject to random stop and search. Any of these could rile up the paramilitaries on one side or another, and we’ll be back where we started.

Will the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland ever liberalize their abortion laws?

There is an active lobby for extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, and there has been since I worked for the NI Women’s Movement back in the 1980s. However, there is more public support than ever before: polls suggest that over 70% of the people of Northern Ireland now support this change.

However, our political parties do not reflect the grassroots. In a spreadsheet published by the Belfast Feminist Network before the recent Assembly elections, it is noted that all the Unionist parties and the nationalist SDLP are anti-abortion, although the UUP does permit its members a ‘vote of conscience’ on the issue, as does the Alliance Party. Sinn Féin supports only limited access to abortion for fatal foetal abnormality (FFA) and in cases of incest and rape. The only sitting pro-choice parties are the Green Party and People Before Profit Alliance, both of can only expect to which hold one or two seats apiece.

Of the candidates in the Assembly Election who expressed an opinion (one hung up the phone twice when asked),

  • 45% oppose abortion in the case of FFA,
  • 47% oppose abortion following rape or incest, and
  • 71% oppose the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

71% of potential MLAs oppose abortion, compared with over 70% of pro-choice voters.

Now, let’s look at the donkeys we actually elected, and how they would vote:

  • 49% against abortion for FFA – not a huge increase.
  • 52% against abortion following rape or incest – again, not a huge increase, but it takes us over the 50% tipping point, which certainly leads me to question why over 50% of our elected leaders are okay with rape and incest,
  • 94% against extending the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.


I’m not sure what it says about our leaders that they are so out of touch with what their voters want.

But I do know what it says about Northern Irish voters: that they consistently vote for a shower of worthless gobshites who work against our interests, and those of Northern Ireland in general.

We’re mugs, morons, fools of the highest order, and we deserve everything the scum at the top defecate onto us.

Is it possible that Northern Ireland could stay in the EU and at the same time keep being a part of the United Kingdom?

I am looking for solution of the problem of having border dividing again island of Ireland.

Northern Ireland, as part of the UK, will be leaving the EU. There’s no way around that. The EU today has indicated that Northern Ireland would automatically get EU membership as part of a united Ireland, but that is some way off. There would need to be strong evidence that Northern Ireland voters want a united Ireland (maybe after the Tories can’t seem to find the cash to replace NI’s EU subsidies after Brexit?), followed by a referendum, followed by whatever negotiations and transitional arrangements are necessary, etc., etc. It won’t be soon, and it won’t be quick.

Brexit means that there ought to be a customs border, and a travel border for EU and RoW travellers entering Northern Ireland from the Republic. Much has been suggested regarding how this can be achieved without plunging the province into terrorism again, such as using traffic cameras for customs control and having the travel border between GB and the island of Ireland. So far, there are no good solutions and no solid plans.