Belfast Telegraph

Belfast poet Michael Longley has called on unionists to embrace the Irish language

Fionola Meredith: Why we should take heed of poet Longley's words on the Irish language 

The days between Christmas and New Year have a curious, other-worldly quality all of their own. The wild excess of gift-giving and feasting is over, but most people are still off work. If you venture outside you find the roads are almost empty, apart from die-hard spenders rushing to the post-Christmas sales - as if there hasn't been enough spending already. There's nothing much to do except eat leftover turkey sandwiches or sip another glass of Baileys, if you still have the stomach for it.

Westminster could pass laws that would see wolf-whistling treated as a misogynistic hate crime

Fionola Meredith: Sexist quips and wolf whistles may be a pain, but they can hardly count as hate crimes 

I've heard this particular sexist remark so many times in my life, and always from random male strangers. "Cheer up, love. It'll never happen." On the most recent occasion it happened while I was waiting to take part in a radio broadcast. I'm sitting there in the green room, minding my own business, staring into space. A balding bloke - completely unknown to me - pops his head around the door and, with a perky grin, delivers the stunningly original quip: "Cheer up, love…"

Belfast’s Linen Hall Library is facing serious funding cutbacks

Fionola Meredith: The Linen Hall Library is an institution like no other - it must not be allowed to die 

If you have never walked through the doors of the Linen Hall Library in Belfast, you have been missing out on the very best of what this city has to offer. To me, this extraordinary independent institution embodies the city at its finest. It is a place, open to everyone, which gathers up all the colourful, complicated threads of who we are as a society - stretching back centuries into the past - and holds them safe for local people and international visitors to explore, examine and reflect upon.

We are constantly being pressurised into recycling more and more... whether we like it or not

Fionola Meredith: Council must make clear that recycling is not a waste of time before we bin the whole idea 

I'm a reluctant recycler. Sometimes even a recycling refusenik. Like many people, I have a busy life. If I am to spend precious minutes separating my rubbish, rinsing baked bean cans, tearing up pizza boxes, removing the cellophane windows from envelopes, detaching lids from jars and bottles, and carefully depositing it all in the appropriate bins, I need to know that this activity is actually worthwhile.

Total rubbish: in Northern Ireland 437 items of litter per 100m of beach were found last year

Fionola Meredith: Whopping fines and not positive messages are the proper way for us to deal with litter louts 

Can we stop being nice, kind and understanding about people who litter? Taking part in a recent radio debate, I was somewhat flummoxed to hear a campaigner for cleaner neighbourhoods argue that increasing fines for dropping rubbish was not the answer. Claiming that some people were "not aware" of the issue of littering, he said that "engaging with people positively is a much stronger mechanism".

Ex-Tory leader William Hague claims the UK’s drug policy is ineffective, inappropriate and out of date

Fionola Meredith: Times really have changed if a former Tory leader is calling for cannabis to be legalised 

William Hague calling for the legalisation of cannabis is a bit of a shock, like finding out your Great Aunt Mavis is a secret hash fiend. I'm sure Lord Hague, as an upstanding senior Conservative and former Tory party leader, has never indulged in the fragrant haze of an illicit spliff. Neither, to my knowledge, has he morphed into a version of that hippie bishop in Father Ted, who takes off for California in a camper van after Dougal accidentally manages to destroy his faith.

Prof Richard Ned Lebow refused to apologise over an alleged sexist comment

Fionola Meredith: Why we must stand by our right to say the wrong thing ... even if the PC police disagree 

I am delighted to learn that the elderly professor who made a lame joke about knickers in a crowded lift, thus causing an international scandal, is refusing to apologise. Here's what happened: Professor Richard Ned Lebow, a political scientist from King's College London, was heading back to his hotel room after attending a conference of the International Studies Association (ISA) in San Francisco. The attendant in the lift asked him which floor he wanted, and Prof Ned Lebow responded "ladies' lingerie". Another academic at the same conference, Simona Sharoni, a professor of gender studies, heard him and filed a complaint against him for sexist behaviour.

Pro-choice campaigners criticised Nell McCafferty for going off-message

Fionola Meredith: It is perfectly possible to dislike the idea of abortion but still recognise it as a necessity 

I'm always interested in people who say unsayable things. So much public discourse today is ploddingly conformist, everybody in their own little tribes, parping the same smug platitudes, staying obediently on-message. It gets boring, because whether it's petulant loyalists, Bible-brandishing preachers, ruthlessly programmed Shinners or Corbynista zealots, you always know exactly what they are going to say.

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