All posts by Michael Jackson

Reduction of MLAs at a Cost

Source: MB Architectural
Source: MB Architectural

After many years of conflict in Northern Ireland, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 ushered in a new era of peace to the province, and allowed for the devolution of government to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont. Having voted via referendum, the majority of the electorate in Northern Ireland gave the agreement their approval. However, the system of government provided by the assembly is not without its faults or its criticisms. One such criticism is that the Northern Ireland assembly is over-governed. It is argued that there are simply too many MLAs for such a small population.

There are currently 108 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in Stormont who represent a population of approximately 1.811 million people. This equates to there being approximately 1 MLA per 16,788 persons who live here. Comparatively there is around 1 Member of Parliament in Westminster for every 92,000 people in the whole of the UK. In Scotland’s devolved parliament at Holyrood, they have 129 elected MSPs, meaning that Scotland has just 21 more elected representatives than Northern Ireland for a population that is more than twice the size of Northern Ireland’s.

Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ireland_Assembly
Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ireland_Assembly

The debate around the reduction of MLAs isn’t exactly a new one. Political commentators, the general public, and politicians themselves have been having a seemingly endless discussion about the issue for a number of years. Having looked at the number representatives in Stormont in relation to the number of representatives in other UK parliaments, it would be difficult for any party to publicly denounce the reduction of MLAs. In recent years there has been increased pressure on the Northern Ireland Assembly to provide value for money. The parties at Stormont tend to be in agreement that there are too many elected representatives in the assembly, and yet despite many years of discussion, there has been little to no definite action taken to address the issue, until quite recently. Surprisingly it was the crisis talks that took place at Stormont in November, and the resulting “Fresh Start Agreement” that set the framework for the reduction of MLAs and assembly departments.

A section of the Stormont House Agreement, or “Fresh Start Agreement”, contains a proposal introduce a bill to reduce the number of government departments from 12 to 9, and to reduce the number of MLAs to 5 per constituency by 2021. The proposal would reduce the number of MLAs from 108 to 90. However, members of The Alliance Party have argued that changes should have been implemented before the May 2016 election, and brought forward an assembly motion to that effect last November. Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson who signed the proposal said, “Estimates are it would save the taxpayer around £2.2 million each year, or £11 million per Assembly term, in wages, expenses and office costs.”

The estimated savings that were suggested by Stewart Dickson are certainly attractive, especially in a time of public sector cuts and austerity. Nevertheless, other parties in the assembly voted against the motion to change the timing of the implementation. Following the vote, Alliance MLA for East Belfast Chris Lyttle slammed those who opposed the motion saying, “It is disappointing other parties decided to act in self-preservation and not follow Alliance’s lead to carry out much-needed reform, while still ensuring representation for smaller parties.” However, ensuring the representation of certain groups was one of the main reasons cited by some parties for not implementing the changes before the most recent elections.

During the debate Sinn Féin’s Pat Sheehan warned members of the dangers of comparing the Northern Ireland Assembly to its UK counterparts saying, “None of those institutions faces the same difficulties as we do here. None of them was established as a response to 30 years of conflict and the serious fault lines and divisions in society that we have here in the North”. He added, “In the Assembly, the question is whether a reduction in the number of MLAs would have a negative impact on representation or equality. There is, for example, a danger that some constituencies will be left without a nationalist representative in some cases or a unionist representative in others.”

Other MLAs who took part in the debate stressed the need for representation of smaller parties, and women in the Assembly. Danny Kennedy of the UUP said, “We also need to see what protections will be in place for some of the smaller parties.”
Women who are already represented in politics could suffer as a result of the reduction of MLAs. Caitríona Ruane said “I welcome the agreement. Let us put it in place now, but let us also make sure that each one of us is proactive in ensuring that we have more women on the ticket.”

If the changes were implemented at this current time, the reduction of MLAs would have affected certain groups within the assembly disproportionately. Based on current election results nationalists within the assembly would be set to lose a staggering 22.5% of their representatives, compared to a unionist loss of 12.5%. Those who designate as “others” would lose 16.66% of their representatives. Hypothetically speaking the Green Party would be the only party who designate as “other” who would not lose a seat. Their party press officer Sara McCracken said, “The Green Party will be working to consolidate its position and increase representation… Green Party supports the changes but have been working towards this coming in after the current mandate.” There would be a 13.33% loss of women in an assembly where women make up just 27.77% of its members.

MLA change new

The Assembly passed the Reduction of Numbers Bill in February of this year which will implement the changes to the number of MLAs as outlined in the “Fresh Start Agreement”. Parties need to work to consolidate their own positions. They also need to consolidate the diversity of representatives in the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Reduction of MLAs will certainly save money, but it could be at a heavy price.

Music Seminar with Modular Maestro

Photo by DIT DJ Society: https://www.facebook.com/ditdj/
Photo by DIT DJ Society: https://www.facebook.com/ditdj/

On the 27th of April the Dublin Institute of Technology DJ Society hosted an analogue music seminar in collaboration with renowned local electronic music artist Matt Flanagan, better known as DeFeKT.

The event, which took place in The Bull and Castle in Dublin, was the second in series of seminars hosted by the group. Members of the society aim to invite a number of artists to share their experience and expertise with those participating. DeFeKT, who has been active in the electro scene for a number of years, was invited to educate participants about analogue and modular music.

Watch one of DeFeKT’s live performances:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1QP56em8EM

 

Entry into the event was free, however, there were a number of collections for the suicide and self-harm prevention charity, Pieta House. There was standing room only during the seminar, as the venue was filled to capacity.

Proceedings began with a modular synthesis workshop, in which DeFeKT gave a live musical demonstration of his improvised analogue sound. Following the musical display, he went on to talk at length about his experiences during his career as an artist. The informal lecture covered a broad range of topics including his own live shows, his knowledge of the music industry, and music production methods. Audience members were then invited to take part in a Q&A session with the artist. Aspiring musicians and music fans were given the opportunity to create a dialogue about the music scene, and to ask for advice in relation to their own careers.

As the seminar came to an end, those in attendance were invited to stay for a number of DJ performances from members of the DIT DJ society. The society plan to host a number of other seminars in future.

If you or a friend are feeling suicidal, or in distress, help is available from Pieta House:  http://www.pieta.ie/

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Photo credit of Pieta House Self-Harm or Suicide Crisis Centre https://www.facebook.com/pietahouse/

In Review: Anno Stamm – No One Else EP

http://www.allcityrecordlabel.com/
Image by All-City Records http://www.allcityrecordlabel.com/

Dublin based record label All City Records are not known for releasing conventional music. In fact, they have acquired a reputation for being purveyors of the eclectic and the extraordinary. For anyone who is familiar with the abnormal sounds of Berlin native Anno Stamm, it comes as no surprise to see him release his No One Else EP on All City.

On an aesthetic level you could easily overlook this record, but it would be to your detriment. A generic black record sleeve, familiar black vinyl, and an unassuming piece of record art could easily mask this peculiar auditory delight. Despite being a three track EP, it perfectly showcases Anno Stamm’s versatility as he blurs the lines between techno, house, and deep house. The eponymous first track “No One Else” is probably the obvious pick of the bunch for most DJ’s. Powerful sub-bass, catchy chopped vocals, and accentuated snare patterns combine to create a cleverly nostalgic, retro style floor filler.

Listen to and but the No One Else EP at: https://annostamm.bandcamp.com/album/anno-stamm-no-one-else
Image by Lars Stöwe. Listen to, and buy the No One Else EP at: https://annostamm.bandcamp.com/album/anno-stamm-no-one-else

 

Of all the tracks on this record the A-side will probably get the most plays, but it is on the B-Side that things get really interesting. Think of the melody of your favourite childhood nursery rhyme, or the melody of a music box. Now imagine that someone has warped the pleasant sounds and jingles, and layered them with a distorted kick drum, creating a track so sinister, that it would not seem out of place in a nightmare. If you can imagine what the might sound like, you might understand what the second track of the EP, “Charge It Up To My Account”, sounds like. Far from being a typical techno affair of relentless beats, the drum loops merely set the pace for this off-kilter melodic masterpiece. It is a pity that this track was selected as the B1 on the record, because although it is by far the most intriguing and creative track of the release, it is likely to be overshadowed by the A-side, as often is the case with many vinyl releases.

As we put the turntable needle down on the final track, the artist takes us in another direction completely. He rounds of the release with a blissful and relaxed deep house offering. “Sensing Social Sirens” changes the mood with its beautiful string and pad sounds, proverbially transporting us to a much different place from the previous tracks. Each track could have been produced by a different artist. Each track has a different sound. All tracks were created by Anno Stamm, a man who epitomises ingenuity. Given the fact that many EP’s have four productions, the consumer in me notices one problem with this EP, one that could also be attributed to the quality of the music; there are not enough tracks.

For more information about Anno Stamm and his music see: http://www.anstam.com/