Hello? Stormont, are you there?

What really gets me frustrated is the fact that the politicians up in Stormont are not doing their job. There is still no agreement between the parties, we have no First Minister or Deputy First Minister!! There is no one leading our country!!

It confuses me how politicians can surpass deadlines and act like children. If I was to walk into my part-time job and just stand in the one spot all day and do nothing, then when asked by my boss “why am I not working?” and reply with “cause I don’t wanna” (like a child) I would get sanctioned, I wouldn’t receive pay for the day and I would be one step closer to being fired. So why on earth is it ok for politicians (who are supposed to be representing us) to do nothing and still get paid? If you don’t do your job you DON’T GET PAID!

Personally, this is just a recipe for disaster. There is hardly any faith in the parties that represent us as it is and now they are putting more wood to the fire by thinking it is ok to do their own thing. And speaking of “wood to the fire” I think people have forgotten about the huge RHI scandal. The RHI scheme was launched to help businesses in Northern Ireland meet the cost of installing renewable heat technologies, put simply businesses would install heat systems and would receive payment for using a renewable energy, however there was no boundaries on this scheme and businesses decided to abuse this scheme by installing heating systems in empty sheds and having them run 24/7 meaning that they would receive a great deal of money from the government. Once all this scandal was released to the public (and might I add it was a great deal of time later) and research was done to discover what repercussions had taken place it was found that the scheme would cost the taxpayer over £400 million! What gives this scandal more flavour is the fact that our previous first minister Arlene Foster oversaw the whole process and denies any wrong doing!! There has been little action taken against those that abused the scheme and those that let it get this far.NB10

I really think it’s time we put penalties on politicians that do not work and create schemes only to make a quick buck out of their constituents. If we let this continue who knows what will happen in 10 years time. I’m sure other countries that read of our current political situation laugh, they must think we are all thick that we have leaders who care only of themselves and are looking to deepen their own pockets.

Granted not every politician is the same, some are working to do everything they can for us. A recent example would be that of SDLP’s Justin McNulty. Newry & Mourne’s extremely vital hospital Daisy Hill was under threat by the Southern Health Trust, they thought in their great wisdom that since there was a staff shortage in the country that they would cut Daisy Hill’s emergency departments opening hours to 8am to 8pm. To everyone in my area this was the stupidest idea every, people would have to travel to Belfast or Craigavon in an emergency. The Trust had many options and just went with whatever was easiest to them, I’m sure the “big shots” making the decision do not need to worry about healthcare because they have enough money to go private. Thankfully Justin knew how this would cause major problems, he took a stand and fought to keep the hospital running, he did not idly stand by. Justin held a meeting of which 800 people attended and thousands more watched it live on Facebook, he listened to the people and tried his utmost to get everyone united, no matter what party you were Justin encouraged everyone to pitch in. Justin made many journeys to the trust and fought for the people, he did not give up and did not compromise. In the end of his hard battle, the Southern Trust announced the hospital’s emergency department would remain to its usual opening hours and many people are alive and well thanks to Justin’s hard work.NB11

To round this all up, I just want people to realise when voting in the future who the true politicians are, which actually represent the people and want to go to work each morning and make the world a better place and which are running for power, money and their own personal gain.


Niall Byrne is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter @NByrne96

Placement is ESSENTIAL!!!

When making the decision in my 2nd year on whether or not to go on placement I was tempted to skip onto final year and get my course done and dusted. How wrong I would have been. Making the choice to take on a placement at an organisation was so useful! I learnt quite a lot and had a great time.

I applied to do a placement for many organisations and received only a handful of offers for interviews which (at first) was demoralizing, I put a great deal of work into my CV, cover letters and online applications only to get a minimal response. This reinforced in my mind the idea that placement was a bad idea, I should just get on with final year and get it all over with. However the few interviews I was offered actually weren’t as bad as I thought, I always over think how tough the interviews will be and how much of an idiot I am going to sound by boasting on my accomplishments and skills. The interviews were great practical experience in adjusting to awkward situations where you are given something different and new, I gave it the “what the hell” attitude, if I succeed all the better, if I fail it’s an experience and I’m not losing anything. Eventually (and luckily) I got offered a 6 month placement with a charity called Volunteer Now. I was hoping for a yearlong placement but I liked the sound of what I was going to be doing with the charity and everyone within the organisation was really nice, happy and upbeat.

Beginning the placement was again awkward, but that comes again with any first time experience. I was taken on a walk round the building and I met most of the employees which was intense, there was over 40 people in an open plan office everyone could see each other and my desk was smack bang right in the middle of all these strangers. I couldn’t remember most people’s names and I was getting so much information my mind couldn’t catch up, I had 2 or 3 meetings on my first day (I had never been to a formal work meeting in my life) which I didn’t know what to expect would happen. But after the first week of meetings and introductions to everyone and what roles I was going to complete I started to relax and find it wasn’t so bad, there wasn’t tonnes of pressure put on me and my fellow colleagues were great craic and couldn’t have made me more welcome, they treated me like I was there for years.

The work I was given was interesting, I got to do a mixture of marketing, advertising and PR-ing. The fact that I hadn’t the exact same routine every day kept me looking forward to coming into Volunteer Now each morning. I got to be really creative, I was allowed create leaflets, posters, videos etc and put any ideas down and my colleagues would work with what I had done, they were always positive and encouraging. Any criticism I got was always constructive, I learnt how to make content look more professional, how to make my work look more attractive, how to find the important information and how to juggle many tasks effectively.

There was one main job that really gave me good experience and was completely new to me, training. I was one of the employees to manage social media for the organisation and over time I was asked many questions on how I did certain things with Facebook and Twitter and what Snapchat and Instagram was, then my manager and one of the directors asked me to teach and train the rest of the office on how to use social media, I agreed but worried about it so much. I was freaking out on how I would create a training session for all these professionals and how I would speak in front of everyone. However my colleagues reminded me that it wouldn’t be as bad as it seemed, all I had to do was talk about what I know and keep it simple. So the day came when I took my first training session and it went quite well, I got up in front of the first group and went through my slides, tweeted, posted and answered questions. My colleagues commended me, they actually found it useful! Quite a few of them took to social media in the following weeks, used my notes and didn’t find social media as scary as it initially seemed.


To conclude and cut to the chase, please take on placement! I can’t recommend it enough and if you get the chance to work with Volunteer Now, take that opportunity! They were a fantastic organisation and I learnt piles from so many talented professionals!! Every day at my placement was a new day and the experiences I got I really do not think I could get anywhere else!!



Niall Byrne is a Final Year student in BSc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter @NByrne96

PR-ing my way into the future (hopefully)

Often we make decisions not knowing where they will take us and then later regretting the fact that we didn’t take time to study our options and thinking through the decision carefully. For me, I had thought about public relations in detail and thought of where it might take me but was nervous as to whether my perception was actually going to turn into a reality. I knew public relations was going to be about managing an event or occurrence that has taken place within society and how the public would receive the message but I didn’t know how I was going to fit into that equation. I didn’t know if my skills would “fit the bill”, would I be able to be a public relations professional? (That answer is hopefully a yes, being in final year I am hoping that I’m shaping up to “fit the bill”).

When I first started my course I had visions of going into marketing or advertising or PR-ing for an organisation. However, telling other people didn’t work out the way I expected.  Studying to be a “PR” came with a great deal of “slagging”, many people laughed and asked was I going to be outside the clubs trying to drag them in and persuading them to be on the guest list, or was I going to be writing to them on Facebook telling them that this club is amazing and they have to go there on Tuesday night. No became a very frequent word to start my conversations, explaining that my course actually isn’t about “repping” for clubs and that it has a lot of content on communication, language, interpersonal skills, advertising, marketing, politics and lobbying.

As time went on (and fortunately the slagging died down) I started to get more and more interest into how much work takes place in the world of business regarding communication and public presentation. A project given to us that involved evaluating a well-known organisation’s strategy to retain and grow within their target audience really started to get me thinking how much planning is needed to be successful, there is so much knowledge needed to keep the product in the consumers mind and many variables are needed to be kept in consideration. Evaluating skills we had was another project, on a weekly basis we recorded ourselves acting out skills we displayed in certain scenarios. Here you might wonder why is this relevant to public relations, I myself didn’t get the usefulness of this module in the beginning but rather how awkward it was to act like an “ejit” in front of people I barely knew, but again as time passed I discovered how useful it was. Practicing to communicate with people I didn’t know and evaluate my skills was valuable, I realised that in my future job I am going to be communicating on behalf of an organisation to individuals I have never met before on a regular basis, so learning to communicate effectively was important and getting the social awkwardness out of my system now was worthwhile.

Many lectures consisted of professionals coming in and explaining their area of expertise and how they got there, each professional was linked to the lecture topic which was easy to digest as for me the content of the lecture didn’t always register with my brain but getting the material again in a different manner helped.  It was so interesting to know how my course could take me down so many different career paths, public relations was going to open up so many options.

I do feel lucky to have made the right decision, it could have went so wrong and I could have been back at square one wondering what am I going to do with my life. Thankfully I have been kept interested and eager to discover more of what public relations has to offer.

Niall Byrne is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be contacted on twitter @NByrne96