What are the real issues in Northern Ireland politics?

I’ve tried to GoogleFu this but came up with nothing.

There needs to be a political ‘purity test’ which can be applied to a local political manifesto. Some of the items I would suggest…

  • Do they support raising the bar for education in schools (especially with regards to computing education)? I know this is a personal desire but I believe it is an important one. And, Estonia is leading the way here – programming will be applied to everyone in school from age 6.
  • What is their stance on equal marriage? It doesn’t really affect me (being a white male heterosexual brimming with privilege) but I would have to question the motives of any political party who refuse marriage equality for all. Why do you want to stop people from getting married except under your definitions?
  • Do they understand the economic priorities for Northern Ireland? Because we have a hundred lobby groups who all want their little slice of the pie to be the economic priority. And, as anyone with half a brain knows, you can only have a short list of priorities before all you are offering is lip service to any of them.
  • Do they support total transparency on finances? This means the supplier relationships local authorities and also donations to political parties. Because if they want to hide this information then they have to be suspect for their motives. Are their supporters some kind of nutter? Are they buying policy?
  • What is their policy on parades and illegal organisations? If you support flying flags of illegal organisations (involved in murder) then you’re part of the problem. If you support parades going through anywhere but city centres, then you’re part of the problem. Keep parades the hell away from where people live.
  • What’s your policy on integration in schools? If it’s any less than 100%, then you’re just propagating the issues we’ve been suffering with for my entire lifetime. Religious instruction in state-funded schools is not appropriate. Religion is a personal experience. Keep it in your family and your congregation.

By answering these questions (for starters), it might be possible for a political party to thrive based on a simple theory. We’re here for the people, all of the people.

Some more added via Twitter:

  • Are they prepared to fight for local services that are necessary? And not just those that win votes.
  • Are they at all realistic and prepared for the removal of the block grant in 2016? Is their response just “Fight the Cuts” or are they preparing their plan for how to keep the country ticking (rather than just turning it into a ticking time-bomb?
  • Are they prepared to apply the law to all without regard for historical or cultural sensitivity? This means no by-ball for their mates in the lodge (Orange or Hibernian). This means no unofficial vigilantes. This means more than simple “condemnation” of the violence.
  • Are they prepared to help make Northern Ireland a great place to live? This means not pandering to one side or another and it probably means doing things that might be unpopular.
  • Do they support the ridiculous opening hours restrictions placed on shops on Sundays? And not to mention the restrictions on pubs and nightclubs. We’re not a “party region”, we’re barely a tourist friendly region. Give tourists something to do on a Sunday morning other than listen to dreary bells.
  • Do they support the teaching of Creationism in schools? This is a hot topic considering that government is trying to increase interest in STEM subjects and including a mythology alongside science is counterproductive. Creationism is a great story for goatherds two millennia ago. Let’s keep it for Sundays and get it out of our schools.
  • As they all represent minorities, what about referendums? Can the people actually have a say in things that matter? Items such as the sovereignty of Ulster, unification with Ireland, abortion.
  • Public transport has to be the future, so where is the investment? I’ve waxed about Free Public Transport as a social and economic leveller before. Climate change isn’t going away. (Thanks to Darryl in comments)
  • What about a strong stance on improving the lots of sex workers? These people exist and they’ll never go away. So think hard about making their voices heard and working for their safety rather than criminalising the activity and forcing the issue underground. That just makes a bad situation worse. (Thanks to Nine in comments)

Published by

Matt Johnston

Technologist, Futurist, Humanist

40 thoughts on “What are the real issues in Northern Ireland politics?”

  1. Good list. Here’s one from me:

    Are they prepared to invest heavily in public transport and at the same time greatly reduce the cost of public transport to all travellers? Climate change is a reality. Fossil fuels are generally running down – ‘peak oil’ anyone? And the cost of fossil fuels just keeps rising. So logic says we need an extensive, reliable and cost-effective alternative to ever increasing car usage.

    1. Darryl,

      I am an activist within the Green Party and as you can imagine, my party are advocates of massive investment in public transport and we also want to see big reductions in the point of use cost.

      On a personal note, I am an advocate of Free Public Transport and I’m working within the party to try and get this adopted as policy. Obviously this takes a little longer as we can’t support a policy unless we know how we would implement it!

      1. Ed, how would this “free” public transport system be funded?

        My presumption is the public purse.

        Therefore is it fair that those who live in the cities benefit from free transport, and those of us who live in the countryside – who need a car* – have to pay both for the free transport of others, and our own car&fuel costs?
        * My house is 30 minutes walk from the nearest bus stop. Kids school is 40 minutes walk away. There are no footpaths between house/school/bus stop.

        Free? Hell no.

        Paul Gregg

        1. Hi Paul –

          You’re paying for nearly 50% of the non-free public transport already. Check out the government subsidy just to keep Translink running.

          Then consider the economic advantages of a free transport system for people who are in rural areas and how this extends their reach for jobs. Consider that a free public transport system can be measured on Quality and not Value for Money.
          Consider the differences in the amount of traffic on the roads (and reduced pollution levels) if public transport was the de facto system for commuting and personal transport rather than the exception.

          Asking for footpaths to be installed is a different question but not an unreasonable one.

        2. Paul,

          Yes, it would be funded by the public purse. You already fund it to the tune of 50% of it’s funding for a service that isn’t used anywhere near enough (where they have services) or can’t be used by many (because they have no services).

          There are massive economic and social benefits to free public transport. So much so, that, when measured over a generation, it actually costs us more to not have it.

          The point of investment would not be to maintain current services – which are obviously inadequate – but to actually increase the quality of service, particularly to rural communities.

          1. Going by what you’re saying Ed, would a total restructure of the transport system not be in order? Surely it would be better to draw up a new blueprint than simply try to paint over the cracks (not that I’m suggesting that that’s what you are proposing, as I do not know what you are proposing).

            1. I’d suggest a band-aid approach at first and then build out new structure as demand is dictated and described.

              1. Make it free
              2. Monitor the hell out of it
              3. Analyse
              4. Expand where demand is highest based on the head of population. (High population areas well-served may not be first to receive new services)
                1. Cheap?

                  It might be an economic kick up the arse that we need. Social and economic mobility. Increased range of mobility for all.

                  Look at places in Europe where thy have gone free. Usage up 1300%. Improved access for tourists.

                  We might be fools for not implementing it sooner.

  2. Here’s another: Are they concerned about the safety of sex workers and is their stance evidence-based? It’s become the trend across Europe and beyond to promote the idea that sex work is, without exception, violence against women, and to take an approach of attempted eradication rather than harm reduction. Sex workers’ voices are routinely dismissed, dubious claims are presented as fact, and, worst of all, legislation is promoted that introduces added danger to their work, as we’ve seen with the criminalisation of clients in Sweden and more recently on the streets of Scotland. This feminist would dearly love to hear from a few politicians who can get past the usual misguided saviour rhetoric.

  3. @Darryl – Thanks for that comment. Reminded me that I am already a proponent of a good public transport system that must be so good (or so cheap) that you’d have to be in a very specific job (or be an idiot) to take a car on the daily commute.

  4. @Nine – thanks for the comment, I’ll add it into the list though because I’m a big prude, I may not express it adequately. Please accept my apologies in advance if I do not express it adequately.

  5. It’s good to hear such progressive opinions from people in a political arena, that for me, is still dominated by the backward politics of the past. Of course, we have come a fair old way in the scheme of things but I really don’t think that the past and indeed religion can be used as an excuse for current stances amongst the politicians.

    When it comes to public transport, yes, the country is in desperate need. I live in Scotland and although the transport infrastructure may not be the best in the World, I certainly have no problems with it and can get anywhere I want without a car. I think many in Scotland would agree. Northern Ireland’s transport system appears rather Third World to me.

      1. Ha, yes, spot on there. I’m just so used to hearing all of the negativity back home. The difference between N.I. and Scotland is profound. The Scottish Government here speaks of 100% renewable energy targets whilst in N.I. we still have the same old squabbles over integration in schools (not claiming that the latter is unimportant, but religion being used as a justification for separation isn’t good enough in a modern society where people are less religious. Government for the people and all that…).

  6. I would be the classic STEM graduate … with a science degree and an engineering degree … quantum mechanics, semiconductor physics even some computer programming. Like many science graduates I’ve found my opportunities outside Northern Ireland and Great Britain, in my case the Republic of Ireland.

    Funny thing though Caleb didn’t stop me from being scientifically curious, any more than people who oppose Caleb believe they help people like me become scientifically curious, they’re only doing it for their own egos.

    There was no such outcry when QUB’s Geology Department closed down long before Caleb was created, yet somehow the same people claim that they have scientific discovery as their best interests. This region made its bed and Caleb is only another one to sleep in it. If Caleb has sparked the interest here, then it has done science here a massive favour.

    Massive cuts to research bodies and private sector reluctance to invest in research and innovation have hampered STEM development a hell of a lot more than the religious right have. There are electronic engineers and computer science graduates on the dole who are sick to death of the fact that they can’t get jobs here.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      I don’t know any computer science grads* who cannot get a job. If you do know some, tell them they can get a job.

      *with half a brain

      Fancy commenting on all of the points with your party hat on?

      1. The statistics don’t lie Matt, we have 45% graduates in graduate jobs, 65% postgraduates in graduate jobs … you can’t say the rest only have half a brain. I’ve got a job, so I’m not standing up for myself here.

        It should be a buyer’s market but it isn’t. The current intake mistakes from the University of Ulster are likely to increase the competition for jobs, but competition isn’t the problem, the problem is a persistant dogma within our private sector of a skill shortage.

        What about graduates on the Autistic spectrum or with mental health issues here who can’t take up roles in the call centres and hospitality industries due to massive social anxiety, but have to fight for the slim pickings of suitable jobs left avaliable?

        Never mind graduates for a second, we have plenty of other means to develop STEM areas in the vocational sector but at the end of the day when it comes to the private sector here … bottom of the five regions of the UK and Ireland when it comes to EU Framework fund uptake, bottom of the five regions when it comes to tax credit uptake.

        Never mind even locals … we have many Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian or whatever EU citizenship that could be uptaken … 27 countries to get recruits from. Yet We Complain (madly) about Skill Shortages. And after that we’ve got work permits.

        Computer science graduates and electronic graduates have lower employment uptake than many of the humanities disciplines such as politics and journalism. If we really want to promote STEM we need the 2:1, 2:2 and 3rd class graduates who have studied these areas to have far more of a say in their promotion than political lobbists who struggle to wire a plug.

        (It’s unnerving that the current multimilionaire British Science minister claimed expenses for replacing lightbulbs).

        Small businesses should be looking amongst these graduates for qualified people with the willingness to improve themselves, and grow their companies rather than lamenting losing out to the big companies and lamenting it, they need to make a real effort to invest in talent development rather than higher salary employees.

        Of course, we also unfortunately have the nonsense that Manager A won’t hire a Shinner no matter how qualified he or she is, or that Employee B doesn’t feel easy working for an Orangeman no matter his business credentials, etc. etc. This is partially responsible for the mobility divide.

        There is no Skill Shortage, we have the talent, the resourcefulness and the work ethic with hard working intelligent people who have been beaten into the ground by whatever obsticles they’ve faced they shouldn’t have to feel resigned for what they’ve achieved or haven’t yet achieved.

        What we have is a Will shortage, or rather a Will challenge, people need to take risks, need to promote and market themselves and face their problems head on. As much effort needs to be made is showing the scientific laeity what these skills do as there needs to be done in developing skills.

        With the party hat on on this issue I’m glad the Science Party recognised the current SDLP leader Alisdair McDonnell as a doctor as well as engineer Naomi Long amongst its lists of ‘STEM politicians’. I’m not here to be a party spokesperson, you can find all you want to know about the SDLP’s beliefs on these issues from their manifestos and policy documents online.

        1. The statistics say we train fewer grads in CompSci than are retiring or dying. There is no shortage of jobs in this sector. There is absolutely a skills shortage. To claim otherwise is ludicrously misinformed.

          And Geology? Giants Causeway? Is geology really a priority? Do we need to do a scientific investigation if the Causeway to determine anything further than it wasn’t created in 6 days?

          Also worth noting that no company I have worked with over the last four years (which is over 300 companies) has ever issued a bias against anyone based on their race, creed, colour, nationality or language preference. Microbusinesses would hire from eastern europe (and many already subcontract out there). They don’t care if the people out there are ‘huns’ or ‘taigs’ and they certainly don’t care which part of the country they come from. The divides you describe are actually from your own legacy as part of a partitionist party.

          The private sector has been failed by both DE and DEL in providing an educated workforce. At the moment they prefer to pick from the enthused. You might wonder why so many of our young people are workshy or why they would not be enthused by the idea of working in a cutting edge environment? I blame the decades of turmoil and emotional damage caused by partitionist parties revelling in the status quo and never actually achieving anything. Because I ask you, speaking as a middle class white heterosexual male, brimming with the privileges afforded me, what has your party ever done for us?

          And if I’m getting no noticeable benefit, even with all of my privileges, from the SDLP then I would be very concerned about whether a member of an alternative class/race/gender/sexuality was getting a decent token of assistance. And the same goes for the Shinners, DUPers and the rest. All they care about is point-scoring in useless debates about yesterday.

          1. Practically speaking geology and geophysics is kind of a priority if we in our own fossil fuel (or future nuclear fuel/geothermal energy), so I would say yes.

            12.7% of computer science graduates are unemployed in the UK, compared with 10.8% in “creative arts and design”


            Bottom of the list for all disciplines … over 1 in 8 COMPLETELY unemployed, registered unemployed with not so much as a McJob or workfare scheme… and Northern Ireland simply follows the UK’s example here. If businesses want to plug their skill gap they are going to have to grit there teeth and look at the 12.7% out of work rather than waiting for a miracle to happen.

            These companies have absolutely no strategy to use the supply line of real computer graduates available to them, they can’t maintain talent development when their own supplies die out. In my opinion they are simply noncompetitive … if they really Demanded that skills be filled they’d be hiring interns, part time workers, they’d bring engineers and scientists in and retrain them to keep competitive, they would focus on the potentials of those who didn’t get a first class honors and give them another go … There are THOUSANDS of things they should be doing to improve their employERability skills (not employability skills)

            Instead they sit on their hands, putting out adverts waiting for a perfect fit rather than taking the best available to them while adapting and reorganizing their company to the circumstances. The successful companies overcome obstacles with work rather than wishes and complaints.

            1. It’s entirely possible that 1 in 8 computer science graduates might actually be unemployable. Such is the dilution of Computer Science understanding in schools and undergraduate studies. Bringing in someone who is not competent is not actually a vessel leading to productivity, quite the opposite.

              Of course – do you know what 12.7% of computer science graduates is in real numbers in Northern Ireland? Do you know how many hundreds of open job recs there are in computer science and software engineering? And you know that these are all the vaunted high value knowledge-economy jobs?

              How many geology jobs are there in Northern Ireland?

              You assume that all graduates are alike. This is obviously not the case throughout my own hiring career. You might also like to know that I work for the Northern Ireland ICT Trade Association. Representing companies ranging from the micro-business to the multinational, the complaints are the same. The universities are wasting the time of intelligent people with courses which are not producing what they are meant to produce. A 1 year vocational course could easily deliver what is not being delivered by 4 year university courses.

              It’s actually insulting for you to assume that companies only hire the cream of what is out there. If you had knowledge of the real world, you would know that local micro-businesses will hire talent whenever they see it. Whether that talent is 17 years old or 47 years old, whether it has a degree or not.

              I will treat your “geology” issues with the contempt they deserve. If only for the dose of realism they would demand. Running an entire department and churning out decades of graduates who will never work in their chosen field? Ludicrous.

              1. “It’s entirely possible that 1 in 8 computer science graduates might actually be unemployable” that is a very good point Matt, and I would say true. From my point of view I’m probably looking at max 5 out of 10 that could fit the company, but also quite probably 3 out of 10 Geology grads :) It’s also about attitude and ideas, not just skills.

              2. —–It’s entirely possible that 1 in 8 computer science graduates might actually be unemployable. Such is the dilution of Computer Science understanding in schools and undergraduate studies. Bringing in someone who is not competent is not actually a vessel leading to productivity, quite the opposite.
                And 8 in 8 computer scientists might be employable, and in places like Germany, Japan, Netherlands and other countries they may come closer to that mark than we do here. Areas benefiting from the Brain drain from here, areas where candidate employees driven by oppertunity rather than driven to suicide.
                If these employers want to look a gifthorse in the mouth that’s their perogative. If you leave yourself with the 12.7% you’ve got the lemons now make lemonade. The same can be said for the employee of course their willingness to go for jobs for any number of inconvieniences that it may cause might be getting in their way.
                With regards to computer science in schools, I think real computer science has only been introduced to schools very recently as an alternative to “Information Systems”, that was about as massive curriculum overhaul as has been seen in around 25 years in my opinion. It’s the introduction of a completely different subject and that’s the educational authority’s call not the school.
                As for computer science degrees being diluted, that is an insult to the experts within the professional bodies who monitor them, who have the technical knowledge that the ICT Trade Association clearly seems to lack. Honestly these degrees are getting far more saturated with many technical disciplines such as programming, networking, computational intelligence, informatics, … only moronic idiots believe the old-wife’s tales perpetrated by some of your members that it’s little more than word processing skills and spreadsheets. Know a guy with a 3rd in Computer Science in Magee headhunted by a US Social security firm, probably would never get the same high value job here, so don’t be quick to blame the universities.
                —— Of course – do you know what 12.7% of computer science graduates is in real numbers in Northern Ireland? Do you know how many hundreds of open job recs there are in computer science and software engineering? And you know that these are all the vaunted high value knowledge-economy jobs? ————–
                And I could tell you about thousands of recruitment advertisments where a SOFTWARE engineer was advertised as an ELECTRONIC engineer on NI jobs and vice versa nearly outnumbering the numbers of genuine ones. You don’t have to have a degree in the subjects to avoids such basic product (product being the job on offer) ignorance when it comes to marketing, I’m not talking misusing technojargon and I’m not talking about hardware programing jobs where the two may overlap, but rather looking for C++ and Java programming skills from people more at home with transistor design, with MEMS and NEMS and signal processing. It is MADNESS.
                Most graduates in these areas here need to ignore the Recs to get ahead, or at the very least become one of the good ones … because the attitude of the Recs with regards to the technical skills for these High-Value jobs seems to be “don’t know don’t care”. NIJobs is littered with examples of these mistakes. You could seriously pull together a sucessful horror story from them almost. You may tell the ICT Trade association to put their faith in graduates ahead of these recruiters.
                ——–You assume that all graduates are alike. This is obviously not the case throughout my own hiring career. You might also like to know that I work for the Northern Ireland ICT Trade Association. Representing companies ranging from the micro-business to the multinational, the complaints are the same. The universities are wasting the time of intelligent people with courses which are not producing what they are meant to produce. A 1 year vocational course could easily deliver what is not being delivered by 4 year university courses. It’s actually insulting for you to assume that companies only hire the cream of what is out there. If you had knowledge of the real world, you would know that local micro-businesses will hire talent whenever they see it. Whether that talent is 17 years old or 47 years old, whether it has a degree or not. —–
                Everyone’s an individual and has to get past the interview, I never said otherwise, never suggested tearing down the system, all I said is to be open minded, not just on age and qualifications and experience but taking calculated risk on a person who will inevitably have both good and bad points at the end of the day that’s what Management is, if things were perfect they wouldn’t need to be managed, and by all means expect them to manage themselves in the workplace. That’s the reality of management, and not a manager I’ve worked for would disagree with that.
                There’s clearly a gap between qualification and career, who’s job is it to manage that? The boss, the candidate employee, a middle man like you? Are you losing customers over your failures in this area, the way bosses are losing candidates and employees are losing oppertunities? Are you just losing patience? Are they really asking the right questions here?
                Well let’s look at a middle man like you, it’s only right to be skeptical here. You suggest that it would take only one year to produce business worthy computer science graduates/ apprentices/ employees to fill the skills gap, and that universities are farting around for three developing irrelevant skills. You might make a good business orientated candidate from some graduate acceleration program who could talk the talk when it came to computer science, maybe breeze through the interview unspoilt, but hardly technically experienced to risk your company’s productivity upon at the ground levels of production, I would say even below the levels for passable on the job training level. I would say you’re taking the easy way out and blaming the graduate.
                What you suggests ignores the skills shortage to concentrate on what probably most computer science graduates may be short on, i.e. business and employability skills. The main TECHNICAL skill shortage would still remain. In my opinion it may be as useless as making a good goalkeeper into a passable striker. I don’t buy the speal about degrees being irrelevant, all those other degrees, I’m sure all the others deal with irrelevant stuff (i.e. a cardiologist may not need to know urology but urology is still important in general medical studies), they still get better employment rates, but a bit extra “irrelevant” knowledge is not in my opinion a bad thing, indeed same applies to the street smarts and “real life” intelligence of the vocational employee … not a bad thing, by no means is either a substitute for the real thing when it comes to specific techical skills either, shows the person is willing to learn and that’s an adaptable skill.
                However It’s not academia’s job to produce the finished product when it comes to human resources, in the same way it’s not the supplier’s job to produce the finished product for a manufacturing company. Universities to do business’s job when it comes to employee development, they are there to provide a broad range of technical skills and some proffessional training, it’s the company’s job to specialise them. Northern Ireland’s best exporter Andor Technologies, developing from the QUB Maths and Physics department show the university is very capable of producing high-value business on its own, the Computer Science Department at Magee and Jordanstown are just as capable if the people in the ICT trade council continue to give up on the quality of degrees offered, and the last people they will want to associate with are people like you.

                1. You make many assumptions, Kevin, which I’d be happy to address here or over a coffee.

                  1. You assume that employers do not pick from the lower qualified graduates. This is incorrect.
                  2. Unemployability is more than simply your qualification. Employability skills include how well you come across at interview and also whether you gel with a team. Social skills are important.
                  3. 12.7% is drawn from across the UK and Northern Ireland doesn’t seem to be an outlier here
                  4. Other regions do not have the existing social issues present in Northern Ireland (which are propagated by partitioning parties in government)
                  5. You’re wrong about the introduction of computer science. The qualification has always been available to schools though most chose not to offer it in favour of the much easier ICT. The latter does not at all prepare you for a computer science or software engineering degree.
                  6. You need to speak to university lecturers. The universities were forced, due to insane policies, to drop entry requirements for Computer Science/Software Engineering. And the entirety of the first year of the degree is a waste of time for an interested and enthusiastic student.
                  7. The Trade Association represents more than 400 local companies in various sizes across the province. The employees are people who have worked in software, hired people in software and who contribute now to the industry by trying to improve things. Are you seriously saying that the industry is wrong? Is this the opinion of the SDLP?
                  8. Every company I work with that is trying to hire is not mixing up their needs for electronics or software. They hire anyone who can show ability and work within a team, whether they have a first class degree, third class degree or even failed their degree. Do not presume to lecture me on the merits of people without degrees.
                  9. An individuals career is their own responsibility to manage.
                  10. I’ll take your ‘Middle Man’ charge and add that I’ve founded four companies in my time. I currently run two of them. All of them have been in technology, ICT, media and software. I’ve also worked as a hiring manager in Nortel and Citi.
                  11. You don’t need to believe me about 1year conversion courses. Talk to the founders of WOMBAT, in their own words their best workers were people who came off the RAP programme. Non Software grads who were given a chance to excel in software. And they did quite well. You over-estimate the technical experience achieved by under-graduates. You obviously under-estimate the abilities of people with talent.
                  12. We currently train four times as many law graduates as we need and a massive multiple of the physiotherapist graduates that we need. But you handily seem to be ignoring that I have always said we do not train enough computer science/software engineering. You need to speak to actual employers rather than making such assumptions. You’re just wrong, mind-bogglingly wrong.
                  13. Academia must have a purpose. If it is to produce educated individuals, then they should be produced. This is not happening. Graduates are spending a fortune (and four years of their lives) to end up with qualifications which have not improved their employability in any way. You only have to look at companies like Allstate who aggressively retrain once they hire.
                  14. I think you should do some research. You’re completely out of the loop here, unable to substantiate some of the erroneous and, frankly, ad hominem, statements you have made and unaware of the potential of the knowledge economy if education and academia was aligned the way they need to be. You’re obviously ignoring the work of the Skills Board, eSkills, The Employer Skills Liaison and the local Trade Association. So where are you getting your evidence from?
                2. Of course it is not the opinion of the SDLP, I’m entitled to think for myself.

                  I’m simply making some unnerving observations and exposing some of the assumptions being made by some in your circle.

                  Maybe you need to research to politics and administration of these courses to examine which remit and which players are in control here.

                  My obeservations, opinions can be listed in summary …

                  * Computer Science is obviously not going to include the complete science of computers. It still logically exists for a reason.

                  * Other disciplines will have strengths and weakness when it comes to skills.

                  * Academia is deliberately generic particularly in earlier years and specialises much later.

                  * The above is in someways a good thing because it allows Students to get a feel for a disciplne before making an informed choice.

                  * I agree vocational courses will be less generic, but will specialise a lot earlier.

                  * The main problem with this is the student needs to make an informed choice BEFORE making their decision. I doubt the disemination of information readily avaliable.

                  * University qualifications are monitered by proffesional bodies, with relevant in-business knowledge, as are some vocational ones. Sometimes the decisions are trial and error but feedback is given and the system evolves. Im sure it’s never a perfect science.

                  * Student choice might be as unpredictable as the weather there is no means and sometimes no point, of controlling them, as there is in any market. Academia and Vocational education needs to remain somewhat of a free-market with no monopoly streams otherwise students may not be able to assimilate new information or make innovations.

                  * The Haldane principle is there to protect academia from meddling by politicians and lobbists. It has prevented philisophical and ideological hijacking. ROI has a similar deference.

                  * It may defend things like science from “concerned stakeholders” but it also defends Science from forces like Caleb, Homeopathy, other Special Interests and Corporatist politicians too. Consider it a mixed blessing so to speak.

                  * The reputation of Computer Science graduates as the new “art students” may need to be addressed the way obviously the “art student” was addressed before it. , CS students being earmarked as the new “art student” will diminish their ability and confidence to remain competitive.

                  * Times are harder now for most of us, everyone needs to work harder and put behind former glories and expect a lot more friction in every goal they wish to achieve. Adaptation is key.

                  * My own belief Graduates, Aprentices etc. need to have more say in the gaps between qualification recruitment. We probably need more liasions and advocacy outside of politicians, university bodies and student unions.

                  Finally —

                  * In terms of the social/political problems, I definitely agree.

                  Arguably, companies like Raytheon have been indirect victims of them perhaps. Going back to politics, one interesting observation from the manifestos and ignoring the constitutional thing is this:

                  > We still obviously do have legacy issues when Sinn Féin the party who are getting most votes from the local graduate base (a recent survey found that it was 14% in QUB, which was higher than SDLP, DUP and UUP combined) are talking about graduate unemployment and a skills audit, and the DUP the party who are getting most votes from the business base (well in comparison to the others) talk about the skills shortage and STEM bribes. It highlights problems if maybe the solutions offered are a bit overboard.

                  >Is it simply a left wing/right wing quarell or is there fundamental mobility and attitude problems here for mixed workplaces? People west of the Bann say they have skills but no work, People East of the Bann say they have the work but no skills … I find that VERY interesting, don’t you?

                  I’ll admit to flying off the railings at time but there’s my arguments. My main conern is putting up the other side of the arguement.

                  On a final note with geology, if I haven’t said it before, if Fracking is ever investigated, the demand for geologists to do survey work could well increase.

                  1. The social and political background can’t be ignored. Of course the SF are going to complain about the economy while there is a DUP Enterprise minister. The facts are secondary.

                    While we have done that subject to DEATH, there are a few more above which would benefit from a critical eye.

                    Say, for example, public transport, equal marriage and the status of sex workers. Nesting only goes 10 levels deep so you might have to start another comment thread.

                    You introduced yourself as “Kevin Breslin SDLP” so obviously I’m going to consider this as party line.

                    1. I’ll get back to you over the party line, if you want to go further you could look to the party lines on this. Obviously STEM issues have hit a nerve for me.

                      Do they support raising the bar for education in schools (especially with regards to computing education)?

                      >>> Yes, of course. This issue has been brought up by Dominic Bradley and can be seen in the reports.
                      What is their stance on equal marriage? It doesn’t really affect me (being a white male heterosexual brimming with privilege) but I would have to question the motives of any political party who refuse marriage equality for all. Why do you want to stop people from getting married except under your definitions?

                      – Generally pro-civil marriage, but against religious institutions from being forced to carry out marriages between gay couples … personally I think it’s an issue between religious gays and religious clergy. We’ll have to see where David Ford moves on that issue.

                      Do they understand the economic priorities for Northern Ireland?

                      – The SDLP manifesto had been backed by many economists, but to what extent I’ll leave for your interpretation.

                      Do they support total transparency on finances? Are their supporters some kind of nutter? Are they buying policy?

                      – This policy is subject to change, Margaret Ritchie backed the idea but climbed back. I’d support the idea, and try to persaude those with reservations. Last two issues could still be asked about parties who have revealed their founders. Lord Aschroft for one.

                      – What is their policy on parades and illegal organisations?

                      Backs the rule of the Parade’s commision, encourages dialogue between vested parties, respects both residents rights and those of the Orange tradition or any other marching organisation. Illegal organisations and their flags with the possible exception of the odd pirate flag around holloween should and are banned. No party likes them.
                      Not keen on provokative use of National flags either.

                      —- What’s your policy on integration in schools?

                      There is a policy document on the issue and the voter base were amongst those largely in favour. The party backs parental choice of schools, now that’s a different matter on how to implement those choices with respect to those choices.

                      To do away with Catholic schools where they are in demand or were they are the only schools avaliable, risks not only a confrontation with the church but a confrontation with an entire community, areas such as Derry, Strabane, West Belfast, the Glens etc. At the end of the day these schools would unlikely to be integrated anyway as they don’t have “integrated” populations, class divide and Nationalist/Republican is often as close at it gets.

                      Labour’s educational reforms in the Republic would be in my opinion the best way, state ownership of schools that are failing or that the Church cannot afford to keep, and make those integrated.
                      Then let the communities decide these matters for themselves. GB has Catholic schools, atheists like Nick Clegg aren’t afraid their children will get too religious by sending them to them.

    1. Perhaps “The Debate” should be, now with QUB Geology gone and unlikely to come back and that Northern Ireland has absolutely nothing outside of perhaps the Open University in to do a Geology degree, how exactly is scientific investigation behind the Giant’s Causeway going to be promoted?

      It really makes you think how depressing that arguing with Caleb has been quite futile, when the vast majority of their opponents here can’t rely on their own qualified experience to provide an accurate argument.

      I think you lot should stop worrying about Caleb but evangilise to resurect Geological study in Northern Ireland from the dead.

      1. Baffled at your insistence that we should train dozens of geologists every year for jobs that would number in single figures across a decade.

        Do we need to scientifically investigate the Causeway? Maybe. Is the Caleb issue much deeper than that? Absolutely.

        The Caleb issue is more about the treatment of human beings. The equality of individuals and the rights that a human may attain simply by being human. By all means trivialise it on your own time with a trip down the Causeway.

  7. ‘male heterosexual brimming with privilege’ ?

    lol, Only a fool indoctrinated with PC Racist anti-White, anti-family (Cultural Marxist) propaganda would write such a ridicules statement. You have no privilege. You are simply fulfilling the timeless laws of Mother Nature.
    Why should the Marriage laws be subverted and the family unit be attacked to please a tiny minority of radical homosexuals who will, on the whole, never even use the laws? It is completely unnecessary legislation that will destroy the already precarious fertility rate of the Ulster folk. You are not being ‘progressive’, you are being duped by the enemies of our folk.

    If we have eyes to see, ears to hear & brains to think with, we can learn much from the Master Teacher – Mother Nature herself.

    “I can’t think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads.” -’ Wow, a gay actually talking sense for once.


    1. Marriage Laws are made up by humans. “made up” being the appropriate word.

      There isn’t really an issue with the precarious fertility rate. As the “Daily Mail” article you quote suggests, there are already too many children being born.

      Please don’t count me among the rest of “your folk”.

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