Author Archives: Ultonia Communications

Ultonia takes on iMedia market analysis

Ultonia Communications has been recruited by iMedia Analysis Ltd for international market analysis, based in London and Northern Ireland, of its new social media product.

The project will last two months, and will establish which locations provide the likeliest markets, and which aspects of the product are most marketable in them.

Ultonia takes on Social Media Market Research

Ultonia is engaged in a market analysis project concerning use of social media.

If this is something which interests you, please let us know.

Ultonia’s innovative new Public Policy Training

Ultonia’s specialized Northern Ireland public affairs training is growing in popularity – clients such as CIPFA, NICVA and Parkinson’s UK have all made use of the half-day or full-day sessions.

The training is marked out by being not about the technicalities of how the legislative process works, but rather about the practical political and financial constraints which restrict or aid decision-making. If you are seeking to influence public policy, from inside or outside the public sector, you can easily read up on the legislative process; but to understand these constraints will mean your work can be much more effectively targeted, and your message can be much more effectively developed.

Appropriate to all sectors – public, private, voluntary and academic – this training is available to groups from 5-15 from just ₤195/half day.

Ultonia cuts costs on translation

Ultonia Communications is taking on the translation of a 52,000-word German piece into both UK and Irish English.

This specialized service is available at daily rather than per-word rates, thus bringing down costs to clients and agencies.

Where is NI’s Welfare Reform Bill?

The choreography two weeks ago was clear – Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland noted that agreement had been reached on most aspects of Welfare Reform in Northern Ireland; Committee Chair Alex Maskey chimed in with similar sentiments. Since these represent the two largest parties in the Assembly, it looked like a Bill was imminent. Yet the Bill has still not been introduced.

There are two main areas where Northern Ireland is seeking differentiation from Great Britain. The difficulty is, it must pay for this differentiation from its own budget. The first is the “Bedroom Tax” (actually the “new under-occupancy rules” which include a withholding of benefit for houses with unoccupied room); and the second is fortnightly payments (i.e. paying the new Universal Credit every two weeks or twice monthly, as opposed to once monthly as proposed in Great Britain).

All five parties in fact seem politically united that these are both worthwhile differentiations, even at a combined cost of around 42 million each year. It would appear, however, that when Ministers were asked to find that money collectively, some were unwilling. Thus the source of the 42 million is not obvious.

Order papers now exist to the end of May with no sign of the Bill, despite the fact it has nominally cleared Committee. We live in frustrating times!

Key words and phrases in any language

A basic corpus of fewer than 90 key words and phrases can really get you going in any language.

Here is a basic vocabulary list.

Here are some key prepositions, interrogatives and negatives.

It is more essential than ever to note that it is exceedingly rare for any single words or phrase to mean precisely the same thing in all contexts in any two given languages. The range within which a particular word is used varies from language to language (and even dialect to dialect).

Clearly, in addition to these words and phrases, a basic understanding of the grammar (word order, plural formation, tenses and so on) is necessary from the outset. Ultonia Communications will look at this over the coming months.

Welfare Reform good to go in NI

The final hurdle for the Welfare Reform Bill in Northern Ireland will be passed on 4 February, with a majority report from an ad hoc committee of the Assembly confirming there are no specific human rights or equality grounds on which to delay it.

Politically, this suits all sides. Unionists and Alliance had long cautioned Nationalists against delaying the Bill on the basis of “parity”, which would cost several hundred million pounds to the Northern Ireland bloc grant annually if it were not applied; Nationalists recognise this, but will nevertheless have been seen to push as hard as they can.

Welfare Reform has been a hot topic in Northern Ireland, but somewhat too late – “parity” always meant legislation applying to Great Britain was likely to be applied across the UK; and the basis of the legislation was established in a Green Paper from Great Britain’s Department for Work and Pensions three years ago.

The issue now is implementation, and how to manage Northern Ireland’s significant opt-outs (such as on “Split Payments”).

The ‘Compton Review’ – a year on

The Compton Review (formerly known as Transforming Your Care) started in June 2011, headed by then Chair of the Health and Social Care Board, John Compton, assisted by an independent panel. It is essentially Northern Ireland’s equivalent to reforms started by Andrew Lansley in England. It was completed in November.

The approach was:

  • a review of context and good practice;
  • assessment of existing arrangements;
  • assessment of alternative options/models;
  • analysis and reporting; and
  • engagement.

Unsurprisingly, this found three major problems with the current system, each feeding from the previous:

  • growing/ageing population;
  • poorer health and growth in chronic conditions; and
  • instability of the system.

None of these is particular to Northern Ireland (although they are if anything worse than elsewhere in the UK, as the population is both growing and ageing faster).

The consequences of this were noted as:

  • unplanned/haphazard change;
  • poorer care and treatment;
  • poorer health outcomes;
  • difficulties meeting future health needs; and
  • failing the health workforce.

Key reasons for change include more patient-centred care, managing increasing demands, and delivering an evidence-based and sustainable service.

The report emphasises a divide between emergency, planned and specialist care and suggests that:

  • people will make decisions about their own care (the Service will provide the tools);
  • most services will be provided locally (and care, ideally, at home); and
  • very specialist provision will be provided in cooperation with Great Britain and Ireland.

The review is also specific about its desire to close at least three hospitals (talking of 5-7 “hospital networks), and to set up 17 integrated care partnerships.

It is stated that the intention in Northern Ireland is not to reduce Health and Social Care spending, but rather to use what spending currently exists more efficiently. Nevertheless, given the strains on the Service, this will seem like a reduction in spending in some areas.

A year on, the ‘Compton Review’ still receives strikingly little coverage. It has, in fact, received broad support for its thrusts towards localism and individual choice. What this all means ultimately depends on your own priorities.

Nevertheless, it is a massive political undertaking and, in a democracy where local interests predominate (as is the case more in Northern Ireland than elsewhere), issues such as ‘hospital closures’ will be resisted – after all, in 2003, an Independent candidate topped the poll in West Tyrone on that issue alone!

Devolution and Layers of Government in the UK

In our experience, there remains significant confusion over how to deal with the development of devolution in the UK.

Businesses and third sector organisations have not yet fully adapted to the new reality of domestic legislation being passed for 15% of the population away from London. However, what is even more noticeable is the apparent failure in many cases to grasp that devolved legislatures also have other functions exercised in England at different levels.

This table may help:




Local Services


Social Services




Foreign Policy

England – London

Borough Council London Mayor UK Parliament
England – Rural

District Council

County Council

UK Parliament

England – Urban

Unitary Authority

UK Parliament


Regional Council

Scottish Parliament

UK Parliament


Local Authority

National Assembly

UK Parliament

Northern Ireland

District Council NI Assembly

UK Parliament

This is not perfect, of course. The precise boundaries vary from place to place, for example:

  • some more “rural” parts of England still have “Unitary Authorities“;
  • the precise division between local services and domestic policy varies slightly from place to place;
  • district councils in NI have comparatively few powers (thus the NI Assembly takes on comparatively more services);
  • fewer powers are devolved to the National Assembly in Wales than to the Scottish Parliament or NI Assembly; and
  • some powers are devolved in Scotland but not Northern Ireland (e.g. tax-raising powers), whereas others are devolved in Northern Ireland by not in Scotland (e.g. employment).

Essentially, however, this does demonstrate there are, below Europe, four basic levels of government – but no part of the UK experiences more than three of them. With that as a starting point, the whole thing becomes much easier to understand – and access.

What will Theresa Villiers bring to Hillsborough Castle?

Theresa Villiers

New Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers

Theresa Villiers has been appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, replacing Owen Paterson. Mr Paterson was widely liked in Northern Ireland, and many will be sad to see him go to DEFRA.

Ms Villiers is a surprise appointment, moving over from Transport, but her keen interest in Cypriot affairs may have been a consideration. She has long campaigned for a single sovereignty and citizenship on the island, divided between Greeks and Turks since a Turkish military intervention in 1974.

She grew up in North London and is a barrister by profession.

Welfare Reform

Mr Paterson had sought for some time to promote Welfare Reform directly in Northern Ireland, as a past PPS to Iain Duncan Smith. Villiers is less likely to take such a direct interest in the subject, which is in any case theoretically devolved.


Ms Villiers is a past Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, so may bring some significant economic interests to the post.

It remains likely, however, that a change of incumbent merely means a swifter dropping of the notion of a separate Corporation Tax for Northern Ireland alone. Mr Paterson had personal capital built into the idea, for Ms Villiers this does not apply.


Ms Villiers moves over from Transport which, while mainly focused solely on England, includes UK aviation. It is possible that she will use the role to highlight NI’s aviation issues, particularly the airports’ quest for new destinations.


By coincidence, her constituency is the same as that held by Reginald Maudling, a past Home Secretary with responsibility for Northern Ireland.

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