The ‘Twelfth’ 2012

In the days after the Twelfth this year a perusal of the different media gave a variety of different perspectives on how it had been. Unionist-leaning websites gave evidence of a happy family day out, in the sun, at Keady, Ballymena and elsewhere. More nationalist-inspired media made much of an ugly incident outside a Catholic church in Belfast. Above all, of course, there were those horrible scenes of mayhem, that could have included murder, at the Ardoyne shops. Continue reading


Old ideas are endlessly recycled, as the author of Ecclesiastes observes: ‘Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time’. In our ceaseless search for the novel we may merely invent new clothes to dress up old knowledge. In so doing we may bury more antique strata of wisdom, which if unearthed might again find utility in explaining what we think of as more modern phenomena. Continue reading

Something is better than nothing …

For many years, I taught in the American Studies Program on Capitol Hill, an interdisciplinary semester of study focused on nurturing in undergraduates the vision and virtues required to take up vocations in the public square. Formed by a deeply wrought understanding of Christian responsibility, the curriculum centred upon an exploration of the themes of truth, justice, shalom, and hope, set amidst concrete, contemporary policy debates ranging from welfare reform to Middle East politics. Continue reading

A Christian Response to Homelessness

“Homelessness” simply put is to have no home and from this perspective is an economic term.  Behind the term in Northern Ireland are some 18,000 people presenting themselves to the Northern Housing Executive as homeless. Only half of them are resettled.  While this leaves many struggling economically they are also challenged by their social circumstances.  Breakdown in relationships in the family home, addictions, debt, intimidation, and mental health issues are just some of the social challenges making the homeless some of the most vulnerable members of our community.  All of these factors contribute to the on-going marginalisation of those experiencing homelessness. Continue reading

‘It’s the economy, so it is.’

For many years Bill Clinton's dictum ‘it’s the economy stupid’ was superseded in local politics by ‘it’s the constitution stupid’. The constitutional question in large part determined which party a voter chose. Thankfully that issue seems to have been settled, at least for the time being, and the economy is now assuming centre stage. While Labour and Conservative argue over whether British society is broken there is general agreement that the economy is broken. Signs are that it may be precariously balanced on the verge of recovery but we are warned there will be hard times ahead. Continue reading