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Showing posts from October, 2015

New contract forces junior doctors to get militant

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Traditionally, medicine is not a particularly militant profession.   However, last Saturday, hundreds of doctors and their supporters were angry enough to congregate outside Belfast City Hall, to protest against a new contract for junior doctors, proposed by the government.
The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is determined to drive through changes he claims are necessary to deliver the ‘seven day NHS’ that Conservatives pledged in their general election manifesto.  The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors across the UK, opposes the new contract, on the grounds that it will compromise patient safety and force its members to work exhaustingly long hours. 
Currently junior doctors are paid at a standard rate for working between 7am and 7pm, on weekdays.  They receive a higher rate of pay, or ‘banding’, when they work nights, weekends or beyond 7pm in the evening. 
Legally, junior doctors can be asked to work up to 91 hours per week, under their current contract, …

Northern Ireland 'paramilitary assessment' surprises no-one

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Over the past six weeks, Northern Ireland’s Executive has not operated properly, even by its own fitful standards.  After revelations that IRA members were involved in a murder in Belfast, and the subsequent resignation of the Ulster Unionists’ only minister, the Democratic Unionists devised a bizarre ‘go slow’ to prove that it was not ‘business as usual’ at Stormont. 
Almost all the DUP's ministers, including the party’s leader and Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, resigned from the Executive.  However, finance minister, Arlene Foster, was nominated to replace Mr Robinson in a temporary capacity, supposedly to prevent nationalist parties from running amok in government.  Meanwhile, the party’s remaining three ministers, whose portfolios include health, enterprise and social development, were continually re-nominated to their positions, from which they then resigned again, on a weekly basis. 
Confusing?  Absolutely.  Inexplicable?  Pretty much.
After weeks of mano…

Politics is going through an angry, uncivil period

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This article is originally from the Belfast Telegraph (9th October 2015).
At the Labour conference last week, the party’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, appealed for a new, ‘kinder’ form of politics.  Seven days later, as Conservatives gathered for their get-together in Manchester, some left-wing protesters refused to heed his call.  Delegates entering the venue were abused, spat at and even pelted with eggs and other missiles. 
The protesters didn’t distinguish between Conservative activists and neutral visitors to the conference either.  BBC Northern Ireland’s political correspondent, Stephen Walker, and even the high profile, hard-left columnist, Owen Jones, were among journalists who experienced the novelty of being described as ‘Tory scum’, as they covered events at Manchester Central.
Politics has always been a tribal business, exciting high passions and strong emotions, but there seems to be a particularly nasty, uncivil tenor to some of the debates currently raging across the UK.…

The SNP: Fiction & Reality (Part 3) by Dr Phil Larkin

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"Edinburgh IMG 3994 (14732734838)" by Reading Tom from Reading, UK - IMG_3994. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In the final part of his survey of the SNP, Dr Phil Larkin looks at the party's future and concludes by emphasising the importance of Scotland to the rest of the UK.  

The SNP’s Future? As any military manual will tell you, a salient, or bulge, into enemy territory is a dangerous position for an army to be in, since it can be attacked from three sides. The 56 seats won by the SNP in May constitute just such a salient. Had they won, say, 30-40 seats, it might actually have been better for them, since they could continue to enthuse their core support with the cry that there “is still more work to be done.” A victory of such a resounding nature means that there is only one direction for the SNP’s electoral fortunes to head, namely, southwards. The present UK Government, with its small but workable majority, is not beholden in any way to the SNP, does n…