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Lindy McDowell

After our compliance with lockdown the least we deserve is to be treated like adults

Lindy McDowell


Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson


Boris Johnson

The week began with Boris in maths teacher mode addressing the nation on changes to lockdown rule confusion as he ushered us through various charts and revisited the 'R' equation. Stay Alert, he cried, as he thumped his desk.

So, more confusion.

And to compound local confusion Staying Alert doesn't actually apply to us here in Northern Ireland, where we remain in the dark about when precisely we too will see light at the end of the hallway.

For my daily exercise allowance I usually head for a brisk walk around the same local park.

In my head I've been doing my own daily assessment of how we are performing in terms of lockdown compliance.

Even though the weather has become a fair bit nippier in recent days (if I was a government scientific adviser, at this point I'd be referring you to Graph A) I've noticed a new increase (Slide B, please) in park footfall.

In other words, we're coming out.

The other afternoon it was really busy. I don't think the same wee park has seen such trade in years.

Also this week a survey shows that traffic in Belfast has picked up from around 12% where it was, to around 15%. Not exactly gridlock. But another sign that people are becoming increasingly impatient.

There is a view that there are now two distinct groups in terms of attitudes toward Covid strategy.

Those who want to maintain lockdown as long as possible because they fear for people's health.

And those who want to see a faster exit because they fear for the economy.

I'm not actually sure it's as clean-cut as that. It seems to me a bit unkind to the latter group to imply - as many commentators have - that those looking out are putting money before people's lives.

I also believe there is a crossover group. People like me who just want out to save our sanity.

This is a serious point and I'm not sure if our leaders totally grasp it. They have work to do themselves and are perhaps busier than they've ever been (certainly busier than during their three-year furlough).

For some of the rest of us a highlight of the week is taking the bin out.

It's not that we have an issue with Arlene and Michelle being cautious. There's too much at stake to risk being lax now.

But they do need to start treating us like adults.


Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill

Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill


Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill

They've become a bit like teachers too - telling class that if we do as told we might be allowed out for a school trip before the end of term. Or maybe next term. Or 2021...

I can't imagine what it must be like to be a business owner and to listen to projections that the shop or bar or restaurant into which you've poured so much time and money and sweat and tears might be able to open in oh, say, about August/ September.

Around the start of the flu season...

Dates to be confirmed - how does any business deal with that? How do the rest of us?

Arlene and Michelle say that giving specific dates would be a mistake because if, when we reach the point of proposed exit the roadmap has to do a U-turn, it will be a blow to public morale.

In terms of public morale, uncertainty is even more corrosive.

There was good news this week. Antibody testing is set to begin. There are various reports also of vaccines close to the starting block. And in another uplift, this week a Sage government adviser confirms that, yes, sunshine and fresh air do help protect against Covid.

Meanwhile, we sit and look out at it pondering our vague roadmap for release.

People here have generally been compliant with the lockdown rules. We know what's at stake. We act responsibly. We're adults.

The very least we deserve now is to be treated as such.

A forensic look into NI's troubled past


Fascinating issues: a range of contentious subjects from the birth of Northern Ireland to Brexit are explored by academics, historians and economists

Fascinating issues: a range of contentious subjects from the birth of Northern Ireland to Brexit are explored by academics, historians and economists

Fascinating issues: a range of contentious subjects from the birth of Northern Ireland to Brexit are explored by academics, historians and economists

Were claims of discrimination against nationalists in housing and employment exaggerated during the civil rights era and beyond?

Is collusion “the crack cocaine of legacy and arguably the world’s longest running fake news story”?

To what extent is the Republic still a cold house for Protestants? Is the economic case for the Union weakening?

Enough material there to keep the Nolan Show going for a month or two — and just some of the fascinating issues tackled in a new book which examines and confronts many long-held views of our troubled past, not least the eternal question of whether violence was ever justifiable.

Co-edited by Patrick J Roche and Brian Barton “The Northern Ireland Question. Perspectives on Nationalism and Unionism” (Wordzworth, £15.99) brings together a ream of brilliant and highly respected academics, historians and economists addressing a range of contentious issues from the birth of the Northern Ireland state right through to Brexit.

Among contributors are Brian and Paddy themselves, Graham Gudgin, Cillian McGrattan, Esmond Birnie, Arthur Aughey, Robin Bury, Graham Walker, Dennis Kennedy, Andrew Charles and William Matchett who coined that withering description of collusion claims.

As the book’s snappy title might suggest, this is not light reading.

The fifth in a series co-edited by Brian Barton and Paddy Roche it’s a landmark book that will undoubtedly ruffle copious feathers.

As acclaimed historian Brian M Walker says with some understatement in his cover endorsement, this is a book which will “stimulate debate, challenge assumptions and cause not a little controversy.”

Highly recommended.

Sorry Rod, but Van-driven biopic better idea

Rod Stewart

Singer Sir Rod Stewart has announced this week that he’d quite like one of those biopic movies, which have done so well for Sir Elton John and the late Freddie Mercury.

I’m not sure that Rod may have such an enthralling background story as the aforementioned. One singing knight of the realm who would be a better subject for such a film is the great Sir Van Morrison, whose songs have featured in more movies than just about any other artist. Sir Van is a bit more privacy conscious than Sir Rod, though. Pity.

Self-isolating couples can relate to Dolly

Dolly Parton

There’s been much debate about whether lockdown is bringing self-isolating couples together, rekindling old flames (and possibly fuelling a new population boom) — or driving partners up the walls as they get on each other’s nerves. A friend was telling me she’s heard that Dolly Parton is recording a new version of one of her greatest hits ... ”Jolene, Jolene, I’m begging of you please, just take my man.”

Belfast Telegraph