Is “Freedom of Speech” the Achilles heel of the Secular Liberal Society?

These thoughts are provoked by the recent trial of Anjem Choudary and the controversy it  has sparked. In the recent discussions of the issue in the media on various radio and television programmes, two opposing views emerged. On one view, Choudary, and many like him, hold views which are not only morally repugnant but socially and nationally dangerous (Choudary is held responsible for inciting many young British Muslims to join ISIS in Syria). An opposing view argues that “freedom of speech” or “freedom of expression” (terms are used interchangeably) is an inalienable right of every British citizen and an essential characteristic of a civilized democratic society and can only be abrogated in very exceptional circumstances, e. g. during the time of a major war or during major internal unrest which threatens the very fabric of the country. Continue reading

Sticks and Stones

Whether politics is an art or a science may intrigue the academics, but for many of us in Northern Ireland it is a deeply dispiriting and often quite ugly spectacle.  Let me balance that by saying unequivocally that our leaders deserve a great deal of respect and support, for they are in the public eye and often have to make tough choices – sometimes between the bad and the very bad. Continue reading

Watch Your Language!

It has been noted that economics is an ‘imperialist beast, claiming the relevance of its general approach ... to a very wide range of human activities’.1 Thus economic models and language have come to predominate in institutions previously organised in different ways. The current policy of introducing market forces into the health service is an example of this. Changing the ethos of an organisation like the health service by the imposition of economic models raises concerns that something will be lost. Yet economics often wins out, simply because it has been seen to be effective in so many different contexts. Continue reading