THE number of people aged over 65 living in the North is set to be larger than the number of people under the age of 14 by 2027 according to the first set of data released following the 2021 census. The data shows that the current population of the North sits around 1.903 million which is an increase of five per cent on the 2011 census and the largest population ever recorded in the North of Ireland. This also represents a rise in population of 26 per cent since the 1961 census. While it is anticipated that the population of the North will eventually reach the 2 million mark, this is not expected to be the case until after the 2031 census. Breaking the figures down by gender, we can see a record of 967,000 females and 936,000 males. The number of males in the North outnumber females until the age of 25, where the number of females subsequently outnumber their male counterparts. Population increase was greatest in the older age groups. The number of people aged 65 or more rose by over 60,000 to nearly one-third of a million people – a near 25 per cent increase on 2011. This demonstrates the scale of population change due to ageing. This looks set to continue as the ‘baby boom’ generation of the 1950s and 1960s reach retirement age.
Some exhibitions grab you immediately, others lure you back over and over. The thoughts and observations you receive as a result can be poignant, unsettling, heart-breaking, compassionate — basically whatever is in your heart.
THE Barn Theatre have announced the full cast and creative team for the 25th anniversary production of Marie Jones’ Olivier award-winning tragicomedy Stones in His Pockets. The production will return to Lyric Theatre Belfast, where the original acclaimed production debuted in 1999, from 7 June – 3 July.
TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has met with party leaders in Belfast today as tensions resurfaced over the British government’s plans to act unilaterally over the NI Protocol. As the Taoiseach met separately with the North’s First Minister elect, Michelle O’Neill, and the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney warned his UK counterpart Liz Truss about her government’s breaching of international law.
READERS of the Andersonstown News are being urged to nominate their favourite businesses and services as we look forward to the Best of the West awards that will be taking place next month. And there’s added anticipation this year as the award ceremony will take place at the newly redeveloped St Comgall’s Primary School in Divis Street – the new multi-million pound facility that is set to transform the area. Back sponsoring this year’s Best of the West awards is SAG Credit Union from Andersonstown. The credit union has a long association with Belfast Media and manager Sheena Joyce is calling on readers to get involved in this year’s nominations.
AS part of LGBTQIA Awareness week, I was invited to speak at St George’s church Belfast for International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. I had been thinking a lot about the story of the Lost Sheep told by Jesus in Luke 15. I love the opening verse in the Message translation: “By this time a lot of men and women of questionable reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religious scholars were not pleased, not pleased at all. They growled ‘He takes in sinners and eats meals with them like old friends.’ Questionable reputation? I love this! There’s just something about the misfits, the oddballs, the rejected, the marginalised and the ones with ‘questionable reputation’ who Jesus chose to hang out with, and this clearly irked the religious elite of His day.
NEWS emerges this week of Irish artists taking international steps and solidifying their base at the same time, whilst a summer of festivals looks set to wash away memories of the previous two years of lockdowns. A number of Irish artists of late have made their way to tastemakers’ Partisan Records. Fontaines D.C. and Just Mustard have both built sizeable global followings off the label’s backing, and are now joined by alternative folk singer Aoife Nessa Frances. Her first release on the label, ‘Emptiness Follows’, accompanied the news in the past week that Frances would sign with the UK/US label ahead of her debut headline world tour. She gives us a psychedelic swirl of dreamy folk vocals and arrangements that live in the margins of tangible and ethereal. She said: “The movement and colour of the music, the harp constantly flowing throughout, are emphasising profound importance in acknowledging an eternal kind of love. I wanted my voice to be close and upfront and vulnerable like Serge Ginsberg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson.”
On JANUARY, 1779, Captain Cook’s ship the Resolution arrived in Hawaii for the first time and some 10,000 native people greeted him as a god. “They saw a fair man with bright eyes, a high-bridged nose, light hair and handsome features.” Thousands of native people fell to their knees as Cook passed on his way to the Hawaiian temple, where a small pig was sacrificed to him. When Boris Johnson visited our own dear stateen on Monday of this week, there were no reports of porcine sacrifices or of people doing double genuflections as he passed. First Minister Michelle O’Neill nipped down to Dublin for a word with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, then hurried back in time for her and Mary Lou McDonald and Conor Murphy to have a chat with the fair-haired man with the, um, handsome features. What did An Taoiseach tell the First Minister that might have helped her in that meeting? Nothing she didn’t know already. That this Tory demi-god is an incurable liar, that a pig’s tail is of more value than any promises he might make, and that Jeffrey Donaldson says he’ll judge the British Prime Minister by his actions, not his words. Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss have said they will this week introduce legislation that tears up unwanted bits of the Protocol. They say this is not so much breaking their written commitment in a signed international treaty as protecting the Good Friday Agreement. So here’s the question you gotta ask yourself: Is Johnson willing to sacrifice the withdrawal deal in its totality, which would probably lead to a UK-EU trade war, to keep the good knight Jeffrey and his party happy? The answer, alas, is No. Johnson couldn’t give a fiddler’s fandango about Sir Jeff, the DUP or our dear stateen. Except that in some way they match up with the Tories’ game plan. Then there’s Sir Jeff’s action-not-words demand. The brutal reality is that even if Liz Truss does introduce legislation that would, under British law, allow the DUP and everyone else to ignore the international treaty signed with the EU, even if that were to happen, it could take up to a year for the legislation to be passed. Before that – long, long before that – the EU and the US will have acted. The EU will have fired its opening shots of a trade war, and the US will tell Johnson to look elsewhere for a trade deal. The Bank of England this week said Brexit is costing the British economy over £400 million per week; a trade war with the EU and a cold shoulder from the US would hammer the British economy, which is already struggling with inflation rates last seen back in the 1980s. On Monday, Mary Lou McDonald accused Johnson of siding with the DUPers. Certainly the good knight Jeffrey had that smug little look back on his face. I suspect he’s so overwhelmed with the visit of the demi-god Johnson to Hillsborough he’s forgotten that when Bojo promises something, there’s a high chance he’ll do the opposite. But sooner or later the DUP must waken from their Tory-worship trance and see Johnson for what he is: An incurable liar. A few weeks after greeting Captain Cook as a god, back in the eighteenth century, the Hawaiians decided he was mortal after all. So when Cook paid them a return visit, hundreds of native warriors fell upon him with daggers and clubs and killed him. His corpse was dismembered, his flesh roasted and his bones separated and divided out to different parties. When people have been taken for fools once too often, they can turn very, very nasty.
CULTURAL diversity is something to be celebrated. Sounds like an obvious thing to say. It is a very difficult thing to manage if not served properly. Cultural diversity and its blood relative, integration is something that we can understand only if we are interested. So, we cannot force each other to be cuddly about beliefs and customs of our neighbours, workmates if we do not reciprocate with theirs. The essence of human anthropology is our difference and this is a reality that should not vex anyone, we are all different. People don’t just arrive somewhere and say, this is my new home. There is a reason for everything, how it happens and when it happens. A lot of people have arrived in Northern Ireland because of their hope to escape the tragic experiences in their life, some have downed their work tools to come to, and you guessed it, greener pastures.