Bordering on Insanity…

Bordering on Insanity…

The four-month countdown begins until Britain officially leaves the European Union. But you already knew that and as the saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun!”. At this stage of the game most people are sick to death of hearing about the Irish border (I know I am), whether it will be a hard border, a soft border or something in between. As a young girl living on the border between the North and South of Ireland, I dread the thought of potentially having to bring my passport along just to do a spot of shopping in Penney’s, what a catastrophe!

AS1Let me throw some fascinating facts your way before we get in to the nitty gritty -when I look out my window I can see the Omeath Road. To the naked eye, there is no obvious borderline. There aren’t any obvious physical differences either, no markings, just speed signs in kilometres per hour; and the grass doesn’t appear to be any greener on the other side. For me to get to Omeath or even the gorgeous Carlingford (Ireland’s own Gold Coast or as we know it the “Cooley Peninsula” which is also famous for its oyster farms and medieval buildings) it takes 11 minutes, that’s just 7 miles.

All joking aside, it’s clear that the so called “Government” don’t know what to do with the Irish border. Neither does Michel Barnier. Theresa May is feeling the pressure from her own party, the DUP and everyone else – each response is usually along the lines of “the common travel area has been around since the early nineteen twenties so we don’t want to change that”.

We are stuck right bang in the middle of this regardless if you are from the North or the South and it will affect everyone. Many of you reading this were probably very young when the Good Friday Agreement (1998) was signed, some of you might remember the peace it brought to the Island of Ireland, after years of violence.  One thing is for sure, no one wants a return to violence especially students like us, who were born in good times!

The stability of Ireland now depends on whether the United Kingdom and the EU can negotiate a future trading relationship. However, this ultimately is where the problems start to arise. If the UK decides to leave the single market and the customs union, we’re sort of in a pickle. Basically, we’ll be taking a step backward and potentially re-introducing border checks, and paying additional custom charges on our ASOS purchases, to name but a few. Mrs May and various UK politicians have promised all along that there will be no hard border,‘no physical infrastructure at the Irish border’. This sounds fantastic but what we all want to know is how?


Honestly, I have no solution myself to this contentious issue or what sort of border should be put in place. I am quite happy with how things are now – a trip to Omeath for petrol, a trip to Aldi in Dundalk or just the freedom of movement the border community in Newry enjoy. However, the harsh reality is that it’s going to have to change. Famous for our sense of humour in Northern Ireland, we try our hardest to make light of the situation in spite of the severity of Brexit and the potential supply issues for medicines, food etc.  Some people have suggested everything from an electronic border, to drones, and even to painting the border.


(What about the suggested border in the sea, looks a bit ludicrous right?)

One of my all-time favourite suggestions is to allow Northern Ireland to enter the Eurovision. We could write a song about the Good Friday Agreement and pull on everyone’s emotions. Right now you are probably thinking “this girl has actually lost it”, I agree! But my blog is about “bordering on insanity” – so it only seems right that I go slightly insane whilst writing about it.

In all seriousness though, it might just help the British Government understand why we really cannot go back to the old days! Nobody wants to bring back thirty years of border checkpoints, customs clearance, violence and smuggling.

As it stands there has still been no agreement made, all I can say is that Brexit is good at winging it. To use the words of the Madonna song, “Borderline, feels like I am going to lose my mind………”


Alannah Stephens is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @AlannahStephens and on  Linkedin 

Money can’t buy happiness – but it can buy food & drink!

Money can’t buy happiness – but it can buy food & drink!

My first two years in university consisted of a very regimented routine. The Hatfield on a Sunday night, the Fly on a Monday night, the Bot on a Wednesday night, with some university squeezed in-between! There was also a lot of counting the pennies and praying there was enough in my bank account, for that next Maggie Mays or that late night pizza from Domino’s… Being a student in Belfast is harder than one would think, especially when you are used to home comforts. Paying rent, paying bills and a bit of partying with a measly student loan, is extremely difficult!

My third year was different. I was on placement year in Belfast, which meant getting paid! I found myself getting away from my usual university routine as I was now in full time work which meant I could not go to the Bot on a Wednesday night… Instead I found myself socialising in different places as I was with different company. It also helped that I was doing my placement within the drinks industry as it became very normal to go for a drink on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thu… only joking, just the occasional Thursday and Friday evening in Belfast. As well as this, working in Belfast City centre let me discover some of the best food places in the city.

So let me tell you about the best places, in my opinion, to eat and drink in Belfast city. (As the majority of my placement wage went towards this!)


The BEST cup of Coffee in Belfast city

On a Monday morning I would find myself eyeing up the clock waiting for my ten o’clock tea break which only meant one thing. Straight over to Home Restaurant for “a coffee & treat” for £2. A vanilla latte and blueberry & white chocolate scone on a Monday morning was like going to heaven without having to die!

Lunch in the city – a hidden gem

Being a typical student, I thought there could not be possibly anything that would compare to a Boojum until I tried a Cuban sandwich from the Cuban Sandwich Factory. My mouth is watering thinking about a sloppy joe…chilli mince, chorizo, cheese…. So much goodness. If you have not been here before, you have to go!


Saturday Brunch

There are so many options in Belfast city centre right now it is really hard to pick one. The Gallery, Harlem and French village are all incredible but General Merchants blows them out of the water. You have not lived until you have tried the “Huevos Rotas”. This consists of crispy potatoes, chorizo, avocado and smashed eggs. Amazing. Their coffee would also give Home restaurant a run for their money!


Dinner in Belfast..

If someone asked me right now where I would like to go for dinner in Belfast I would have huge difficulty picking, as there are so many great places to eat. But, I would have to say Three Levels! This relatively new restaurant in Belfast has a really cool concept. It has three floors of Asian inspired foods and provides mouth-watering food options. There is a huge entertainment focus here as you sit around and watch your chef spectacularly, interactively cook in front of you.

After work drinks

My favourite thing on a Friday evening after a long week of work was a half pint of Hop House 13 listening to the amazing live music in Sweet Afton. Their cocktails are absolutely amazing as well! Also on a nice summers evening it is only a stone’s throw to the Perch, the most amazing rooftop bar in Belfast.

The best Tuesday night out

The Comedy club in the Empire is absolutely hilarious. It takes place every Tuesday night from about 8-11. Its only £8 in to watch three seriously funny comedians perform all night. NOT that I would have promoted drinking a full bottle of wine on a Tuesday night with work the next morning…. But a bottle is only £12! £20 for a great night out. However, it is not for everyone. Especially if you take offence easily.


A taste of home

Kelly’s Cellars is one of my favourite bars in Belfast. It’s warm, cosy atmosphere with the most amazing live traditional Irish music reminds me of the traditional pub I used to work in at home. Apparently it’s the best pub in Belfast for a pint of the black stuff!

The best place for a G&T?

Muriels. Hands down!


So there you have it – my run down on the best places to eat and drink in Belfast, that had I not stayed in Belfast for my placement year, perhaps I would not have discovered. Now back to final year, with no disposable income and a scary overdraft, I find myself counting my pennies again wondering – will I have enough to go out tonight?

Helen McAleer is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn on and on Twitter: @Helen_McAleer30

Urban Myths of Armagh City

Urban Myths of Armagh City

As with anywhere in Ireland, Armagh City is riddled with urban legends and tall tales about years gone before. A conversation in the hairdressers got us talking about some of the most popular stories that haunt children and adults alike that have been passed down the years….

The Green Lady

Between the bricks of a house on Vicar Hill overlooking the city, is a green bottle containing the soul of a woman who has been named The Green Lady.

Although all renditions of the story seem to be a bit muddy (exaggeration makes everything better) the bare bones (excuse the pun) describes 21-year-old woman by the name of Bellina Prior, who killed a young girl Annie Slevin by drowning. This part is fact however as it was recorded in the local press in 1888.

After being sent off to a mental asylum for some years, Bellina emerged again in Dublin before being supposedly poisoned by her mother.

A flurry of stories have made the rounds about what happens when you go near the house, including having your eyes stabbed with fingernails if you look through the letterbox, and The Green Lady taking you away if you come too close to her house. Whispers of exorcisms and sightings have all been claimed, but I don’t think I’ll be investigating any of the accusations anytime soon.


The Red Rose Corridor

An unwritten induction to Year 8 in St. Catherine’s College is being told about why you aren’t allowed into the Red Rose Corridor at the very top of the school.

During the fire of February 1964, one of the nuns entered the elevator to go up to the Red Rose Corridor. Unbeknown to her, the blaze had begun and one of the students shouted to warn her. The nun poked her head out of the elevator and the doors shut, beheading her and leaving the body to travel to the top floor.

Some say if you are quiet enough you can hear her pacing the Corridor, and reports of students running up to see all the lights turn off and a feint figure appear in the distance…


Catherine McGlone

The last person to be hanged in public in Armagh, Catherine McGlone was described as a local beauty, admired by many. She bore an illegitimate son, and upon falling in love with a soldier, seen her son as a problem. As a result, she drowned him in the local Callan River.

After her hanging, Catherine was burned at the stake and her ashes kicked around the local grass area of the Mall. She is said to haunt Armagh Gaol, walking around in white, looking for her love and feeling guilty for her crime.

TV series Northern Ireland’s Greatest Haunts came to the Gaol to try and capture this ghost on film along with many others, and there have been numerous claims of seeing and hearing Catherine wandering and wailing around the grounds.


Whether you choose to believe in them or not, these legends certainly create a good story, and a great source of threat for mothers in Armagh… “Watch yourself or I’ll get the Green Lady to take you away!!”

Lauren Toal is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @laurentoal5 or reach out on LinkedIn at

Uni Today, Gone to Morrow | My PR Placement Experience

Uni  Today, Gone to Morrow | My PR Placement Experience

They say a placement year boosts your CV, gets you ready for work and gives you a break from university. What they don’t mention is it builds character and throw’s you in right at the deep end.

With Summer approaching, most students in the year were already set with their placements, I was starting to become resigned to the fact I wasn’t going to find one and going straight into final year was the option for me. After being pushed by those around me, I applied for one last placement, with little hope of being their chosen student. Having been given an interview, and immediately thinking I had absolutely failed it, I was shocked to receive a phone call that day and was offered the job.

This kick-started the most incredible, strange and brilliant 12 months as I joined the PR team at Morrow Communications.


As an inexperienced junior, what surprised me the most about my time at Morrows was the trust that they gave me to work on some of their biggest accounts. As a placement student I expected to be kept as far away from these clients as possible but instead I was immediately handed more responsibility than I had expected. I was thrown in at the deep end and I swam, surprisingly.

I gained so much experience in such a short space of time and saw my confidence in my own ability grow day on day. But if I learned anything from working for a PR agency, its that you will never know everything, you will always be learning something new, like always.

I was also incredibly lucky to work with some really wonderful people who never made me feel like a placement student, but simply another member of the team from day 1.

On day 4, the agency had organised their annual away day. You will never get to know your colleagues until you get together and do some clay pigeon shooting and some Archery Golf (yes a real thing). I can only thank the guys for embracing me that day as I didn’t even know any of their names.

As I settled into the company, I really started to find my feet and discover my strengths. I’m not going to lie, I’ve never considered myself a great writer. I come from an Astrophysics background and I loved maths in school, its not the most natural transition into PR. But that’s the thing about PR, you don’t have to be brilliant at everything. At least not when you first start out. I spent a hell of a lot of time working on my writing skills through press release writing, email style and general documents. You learn, you get better.


I could spend hours talking about the things I got to do with Morrows; styling George at Asda for Belfast FASHIONWEEK, working in Enniskillen for the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards or spending 5 days as a runner on the set of a BBC Bitesize shoot, but it was the hours I spent in the office learning the trade and the skills that made my placement completely and utterly worth it.

As someone who gained so much from their placement, I have some advice for students and employers.

For any businesses looking to take on a placement student next year, take a leaf out of Morrow’s book and let them have some responsibility. It makes the world of difference for both your business and the student to know their opinion matters and their purpose isn’t just to take admin off your hands, its to grow and develop into professionals.

For students, don’t panic if you are turned down from other placements. Remember that everyone studies the same thing, you all know the same thing. Employers are looking for students who will fit it and who have the right attitude. Employers turned me down and I finished as the highest scoring placement student across the PR and CAM courses, so don’t get down if someone doesn’t want you. Put your energy into the people who do and prove them wrong.


And finally, to Morrows, thank you for the experiences, your patience, the laughs and endless teaching. I will always appreciate the time and effort you made to make my placement year the best it could be. You guys rock.

Kirsty Wallace is a final year BSc Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at and on Twitter @KayyWallace

If these walls could talk…

If these walls could talk…

A PR student’s take on Northern Ireland’s murals


Northern Ireland was recently named Lonely Planet’s best region to visit in 2018. The world’s largest travel book publisher hailed the beautiful North Coast and Belfast’s bars and restaurants as must see attractions for tourists visiting Ireland.

I for one think it’s an incredibly well-deserved accolade. We are spoilt in Northern Ireland by beaches and stunning scenery, music and sport, and even despite living in London for a year, I still think the best food I’ve ever eaten has been within a stone’s throw of my front door.

But when a friend from England came to visit me in Belfast recently, I knew there was one thing I had to show her. Something truly unique to Northern Ireland; the kind of tourist attraction that isn’t quite picturesque enough for the glossy pages of a Lonely Planet publication but gives a Belfast first-timer a true taste of our rich history.

Now, my experience of political and religious contention in Belfast doesn’t amount to much more than memories of my Mum telling us not to play in certain neighbouring streets with our GAA jerseys on. I didn’t live through ‘the Troubles’ and my house is in a mixed area in Belfast, on a mixed road, with both Protestant and Catholic neighbours. It has been a relatively safe place to grow up. But I’ve always been interested in Northern Ireland’s colourful past, and believe that Belfast’s turbulent history is a part of it’s charm.

So, when my Leeds-born English pal landed in Belfast we jumped in a black cab of the Belfast variety, and did a Taxi Tour of the murals in West Belfast, spending two hours around the peace walls that run through the most divided part of the city.

Mural painting really took off in Belfast in the early 1970s and it’s believed that almost 2,000 murals have been documented since then. They are used by both Loyalist and Republican communities, as tools of political expression and have become an integral part of Northern Ireland’s history.


It got me thinking; this part of Belfast’s culture is one of it’s unique selling points. As someone who revels in the charm of this city and has great pride in it’s offerings as an up-and-coming tourist destination, I think of the murals as less conventional tourism gems.

As a PR student, I see the original and most famous murals as unique forms of political propaganda. During the Troubles these detailed depictions told their neighbours what the newspapers wouldn’t. Mainstream media channels of the time would censor many of the messages aimed at the ears of Loyalist and Republican communities, so murals were commissioned to be the news bulletins that people couldn’t avoid.

In more recent years, through the ongoing peace process, we see less paintings of gunmen in balaclavas and the murals are less likely to energise young boys into radical political action. Walls that once encapsulated years of violence and unrest, are now more likely to celebrate local sporting heroes, encourage international peace and portray events from Irish mythology. As they come and go, and change in their style and tone, the murals act as mirrors of Northern Ireland’s changing political and social landscapes.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words –  it’s the communications student in me that looks at the murals as a way of skilful story telling. I admire their ability to communicate complex messages, with depth and breadth of meaning, in a simple way. Some murals are newsflashes from Belfast’s history, the front pages of Northern Ireland newspapers, reproduced and granted long-term residency on gable walls. Some are stunning works of art celebrating key events in Irish history or showing solidarity to international friends. Some commemorate historical figureheads. And some celebrate the new relationships and tolerance between the two sides in Northern Ireland. Infact, since the Good Friday Agreement we’ve welcomed the most unlikely of artistic collaborations – Loyalist mural painter Mark Ervine and former IRA volunteer turned artist Danny Devenny, who are involved together in several mural projects to promote peace in Belfast.

History and geography dictate that Belfast will most likely never be a completely unified city. But that doesn’t mean to say we haven’t made progress and one only has to explore the murals – past and present – to see how far Northern Ireland has come.

The murals stand as poignant reminders of the violence, the trauma and the trouble we hope not to relive in Belfast, and reflect the positive steps we have taken in the hope of a bright future.

Paula McKay is a 4th year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at, and on Twitter @paulamck55 Continue reading “If these walls could talk…”

‘The Final Hour’ – a step too far for Northern Ireland?

We all know, and/or have visited, the Titanic Quarter in Belfast by now.

Jam-packed with cameras, selfie sticks and groups from all over the world on a daily basis, Tourists flock to NI’s beloved Titanic Belfast every week. An iconic location next to the Titanic Slipways, Harland and Wolff, and Hamilton Graving Dock – the very place where Titanic was designed, built and launched in 1912.

No surprise it was crowned “World’s Leading Tourist Attraction” at the World Travel Awards in 2016. A recent report found that Titanic Belfast generated £105 million in additional tourism spend for the Northern Ireland economy. And if anything, as time goes on, the Titanic Quarter will become even more famous and an even bigger source of merchandising revenue for Northern Ireland.


But have NI in all its global fascination and quest for continued Tourism, gone a step too far this time?

Certainly, with all of this said, it can be very easy to forget this is all based on one of the biggest sea tragedies in history.

Thus, many think the company ‘Timescape’ have lost their minds with the announcement they are bringing their latest business venture to Castle Street, Belfast – The Titanic: The Final Hour.

A Titanic themed ‘escape room’ game which will see “teams of up to 6 given an hour to try escape a simulation of the stricken liner.”

At £18 per person ticket, Timescape advertise the experience as: “It’s 11:39pm on April 14, 1912 and you’re on the Captain’s Bridge at the helm of the RMS Titanic. Suddenly, the words ring out, ‘Iceberg, right ahead’. The placid sound of night is broken forever. You and your shipmates try desperately to avoid the iceberg but are unable.

Now you only have 60 minutes to seal the water tight doors, radio for help, put on your lifejackets; release the davits and get every woman and child into the lifeboats.

You must hurry but must not panic as the water rises and time runs out.



Before it arrives in December, there has already been public outcry, with The Belfast Telegraph reporting the objectionable views from the President of the British Titanic Society about this latest revenue adventure: “My personal thoughts are that this is a very distasteful idea, and highly disrespectful to the memory of those who died.

The Titanic disaster was not a game.”

Timescape owners however, maintain they have “taken great care to be respectful to those who perished. Our room and its props are as historically accurate as possible, and Titanic enthusiasts will surely be impressed with the level of detail.

The Titanic is a huge part of our own heritage and history and we are aiming to further enrich that, here, right in the heart of Belfast city.”

The Belfast Telegraph Editor’s viewpoint comments that “many people will feel the creation of a Titanic ‘escape room’ in a Belfast entertainment complex trampling on the graves of the 1,500 people who perished when the ship was lost more than a century ago.

It may seem an attractive commercial theme to those behind the idea, but it is really rather distasteful.

Titanic room.
Titanic room.

We should remember this tragedy with due respect, especially given the doomed vessel’s association with the city.”

BBC even got hold of the story and reported on their website that “Belfast have always had an ambiguous relationship with the Titanic, unsure of how to deal with the memory of the ship which sank. As time passed, a feeling of pride in the construction of the ship overcame any hesitancy to embrace the liner, its legacy and its financial potential.”

Pride perhaps, but it goes without saying, this is not a great start for a brand new business adventure; damaged with bad publicity, public concern and major criticism, before this “fun, adrenaline raising activity” even opens.

Timescape’s promotion to Tourists is: “Don’t miss out on the Titanic room to experience a part of Belfast’s history in a totally unique way.”

Unique, indeed.

Would you play this game?

(I think it’s safe to say Leonardo DiCaprio will not be taking part).


Chloe Campbell is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: / Facebook: Chloe Campbell.

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