Inexplicable, indeed.

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The BBC report that, in Belfast High Court this morning, Mr Justice Morgan has ruled that the appointments of David Burrows and Don McKay, by the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland Peter Hain, was unlawful.. inexplicable is the quote used. Updated below. More Peter Hain is “extremely disappointed”.. and taking legal adviceFrom the BBC report -

He also said the case caused him to doubt whether the appointment panel members understood the nature of the task in which they were engaged.

Although I wouldn’t, necessarily, single out the panel..

It’s the second decision by an NIO minister ruled unlawful in just over a week..

Update As has been pointed out in the comments, the judgement is available online here

Although the judge did not accept all of the challenges to the appoinments, he was critical of the appointment process -

[17] I now turn to the first ground of challenge namely the failure to encourage applicants from nationalist residents groups or indeed any nationalist community groups to apply for posts having regard to the encouragement given to applicants from the loyal orders. Mr MacDonald QC submitted that this failure represented a breach of the statutory obligation in paragraph 2 (3) of schedule 1 of the 1998 Act and further constituted an act of discrimination on the grounds of religious belief and political opinion contrary to section 76 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. For the respondent Mr McCloskey QC submitted that there was no obligation within the appointment process to consider whether to approach such nationalist groups and that section 76 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 did not give rise to a public law duty.

[18] It is in my view clear that the statutory discretion given to the Secretary of State to secure that as far as is practicable the membership of the Commission is representative of the community in Northern Ireland gives him a wide discretion in relation to the interests which he can take into account. Apart from the usual issues such as gender, race, religious belief and political opinion there may be other related or specific perspectives which the Secretary of State considers it proper to have represented on a body such as this. That demonstrates the diversity of interests which the Secretary of State is entitled to take into account and is consistent with Mr McCloskey’s submissions that his decision is an evaluative judgment. But the notion of a body which is representative of the community in Northern Ireland encompasses not just diversity but also the concept of balance. That applies not just to the decision-making of the Secretary of State when he is presented with the appointable pool but also to the process by which the appointable pool is formed.[added emphasis]

[19] The verbal and written encouragement given to the loyal orders to put forward applicants for appointment is a well recognised tool in discrimination law for the purpose of increasing the representation of underrepresented groups (see in particular Professor McColgan’s work on Discrimination Law 2nd edn 148-157). There is no doubt that it was the intention of government to bring forward applications from the loyal orders because it was considered important to ensure that their perspective was heard within the Commission. For the reasons I have given earlier I consider that such an approach was entirely a matter for the Secretary of State. But the requirement of balance within the statutory duty at paragraph 2 (3) of schedule 1 of the 1998 Act imposed on those officials conducting the appointment process on behalf of the Secretary of State the obligation to consider whether it was necessary to target those groups within the nationalist community which opposed the perspective of the loyal orders. The existence of such groups would have been well known to the respondent. Although the affidavits of the respondent are silent on that issue the cross-examination of the deponent made it clear that no such consideration took place. I consider, therefore, that the appointment process was unlawful in that the Secretary of State’s officials failed to take into account a material consideration as a result of which he failed to secure as far as was practicable that membership of the Commission was representative of the community in Northern Ireland.[added emphasis]

[20] In light of my decision it is unnecessary for me to determine the issue in relation to section 76 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and I shall only touch briefly upon it. The section provides:

“ 76. – (1) It shall be unlawful for a public authority carrying out functions relating to Northern Ireland to discriminate, or to aid or incite another person to discriminate, against a person or class of person on the ground of religious belief or political opinion.

(2) An act which contravenes this section is actionable in Northern Ireland at the instance of any person adversely affected by it; and the court may-

(a) grant damages;

(b) subject to subsection (3), grant an injunction restraining the defendant from committing, causing or permitting further contraventions of this section.

(3) Without prejudice to any other power to grant an injunction, a court may grant an injunction under subsection (2) only if satisfied that the defendant-

(a) contravened this section on the occasion complained of and on more than one previous occasion; and

(b) is likely to contravene this section again unless restrained by an injunction.”

For the respondent Mr McCloskey QC contended that the express right of personal action provided by section 76 (2) excluded any public law duty in respect of section 76 (1). I do not accept that submission. I consider that section 76 (2) is designed to provide a remedy in damages and to control the exercise of injunctions in relation to personal actions. I do not consider that that is intended to remove the public law duties of public authorities which otherwise arise from section 76 (1).

[21] Mr MacDonald QC submitted that the respondent discriminated against nationalist residents groups on the ground of religious belief or political opinion. He relies on the definition of discrimination in section 98 (5) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998”:

“(5) For those purposes a person discriminates against another person or a class of persons if he treats that other person or that class less favourably in any circumstances than he treats or would treat other persons in those circumstances.”

I have two reservations about this submission. Firstly I have not concluded that there was any legal obligation on the Secretary of State to encourage nationalist groups in the same way as he encouraged the loyal orders. I consider that there was a legal obligation on those in charge of the process to consider whether to so encourage those groups. It may be that this would constitute discrimination within section 98 (5) of the 1998 Act but I would need further submissions on it.

Secondly I am not satisfied that any alleged discrimination was on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion. I consider that one should approach this as a composite question in line with the decision of the House of Lords in Shamoon v Chief Constable [2003] UKHL 11. In this case the encouragement was given to those within the Protestant or Unionist community holding a particular perspective. Within that community the group was not defined by their religious belief or political opinion. The alleged disadvantaged group fall within the nationalist or republican or Roman Catholic community but similarly were not defined within that group by their religious belief or political opinion. Accordingly I do not consider that the targeting of a particular type of Protestant or unionist could be said to be on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion where that particular group are not defined by either of those matters.

[22] Mr Mackay has resigned from the Parades Commission. I have found no reason relating to Mr Burrows’ skills experience or background which would prevent him being appointed to the Parades Commission. I have, however, found that the process was unlawful in that the requirement of balance was not considered during the appointment process in connection with his appointment. In those circumstances I consider that I should quash the decision to appoint Mr Burrows so that the Secretary of State may exercise his powers of appointment afresh to secure that as far as is practicable the membership of the Commission is representative of the community in Northern Ireland. I want to make it clear that this judgment should not operate as any prohibition on the reappointment of Mr Burrows should the Secretary of State so decide in the exercise of his powers under paragraph 2 (3) of schedule 1 of the 1998 Act.[added emphasis]

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  • Crataegus

    There are quite a few other decisions of Hain’s that are even more inexplicable.

  • seabhac siulach

    Another reason to get rid of these distracted direct rule ministers as soon as possible…

  • Pete Baker

    ss

    What makes you believe that the unlawful appointments were a result of Hain being distracted?

  • seabhac siulach

    “What makes you believe that the unlawful appointments were a result of Hain being distracted?”

    Perhaps, I am being too charitable…
    For ‘distracted’ perhaps should read incompetent.
    Really, if we wanted incompetence, I am sure we could find plenty of it within the local political community without importing it from the neighbouring island…

    Are you perhaps suggesting in your reply that the appointments were deliberate? To what end? A canny political stroke to soothe the ire of Orangemen and unionists? More likely incompetence…

    An incompetence that is a result of the fact that he does not spend his full time in the six counties, the fact that his job is divided between here and Wales…and the fact that he is continuosly nervously looking over his shoulder back to London in a bid to shore up his position in the cabinet…

  • Pete Baker

    That the appointments have been declared unlawful is evidence of incompetence.. but it seems clear that this was a deliberate move, not to “soothe the ire of Orangemen and unionists” as you have suggested, but to draw the DUP and the Orange Order into the Parades Commission and the decisions being made there.

  • http://www.youngunionists.org.uk/ Fermanagh Young Unionist

    So orangemen (which the parades commission target most) are unlawful but an ex-nationalist MP was lawful?

  • seabhac siulach

    “So orangemen (which the parades commission target most) are unlawful but an ex-nationalist MP was lawful?”

    How can two orangemen on a board of no more than 7 be correct or lawful…?
    How can it be correct that orangemen would be on a supposed inpartial body that rules on their own marches? It is unethical and let us say incestuous. It would be the same as if members of the Garvaghy road residents group were on the commission…would we expect them to be impartial when it came to ruling on the legality of the Garvaghy road march or would we believe in the impartiality of the whole commission as a result. Of course not.
    Replace them with one/two ex-members of the DUP/UUP (who are not members of the Orange order or other loyal orders) and I don’t see anyone complaining (much). Well, as long as they have valid references this time!
    Jeez, this is not brain science or, eh, rocket surgery after all…

  • DNDS

    If anyone took the trouble to read the judgment it is clear that the reporting of this judgment is totally misleading!

    http://www.courtsni.gov.uk/en-GB/Judicial+Decisions/Judgments/j_j_morc5576.htm

  • Nevin

    Here’s the [url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200102/cmhansrd/vo011109/text/11109w14.htm]ministerial response[/url] on 9 November 2001:

    “Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who decides the appointment of the Parades Commission commissioners, the length of contract and level of remuneration.

    Jane Kennedy: The appointments process is carried out in accordance with the Peach principles, and includes an external scrutiny element.

    The posts are publicly advertised in the press and a selection panel meets to consider the applications received and a decision is taken whether to shortlist the candidates or invite all candidates for an interview. Candidates are interviewed by a selection panel, and a suitability submission is prepared for the Secretary of State’s final approval of prospective commissioners.

    Under the terms of Schedule 1 of the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998 the Chairman and other members of the Commission shall be appointed for a term not exceeding three years subject to the provisions within the Act.

    Also under the terms of Schedule 1 of the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998 the Secretary of State may pay to the Chairman and other members of the Commission such remuneration as the Secretary of State may determine.

  • seabhac siulach

    “If anyone took the trouble to read the judgment it is clear that the reporting of this judgment is totally misleading!”

    What?

    Section 22 of the report (at the end) states

    “I have, however, found that the process was unlawful in that the requirement of balance was not considered during the appointment process in connection with his appointment. In those circumstances I consider that I should quash the decision to appoint Mr Burrows so that the Secretary of State may exercise his powers of appointment afresh to secure that as far as is practicable the membership of the Commission is representative of the community in Northern Ireland. I want to make it clear that this judgment should not operate as any prohibition on the reappointment of Mr Burrows should the Secretary of State so decide in the exercise of his powers under paragraph 2 (3) of schedule 1 of the 1998 Act.”

    What is misleading about that?

  • darth rumsfeld

    tee hee
    Another hammer blow for the Parades’ Commission, and the government’s increasingly shameless attempts to woo Orange Order involvement. The initial appointments were made without the approval of the Grand Lodge in attempt to detach Portadown from the GOLI, and were naturally the cause of some (more) confusion within the Order as to the policy.

    Now Hain has the worst of all outcomes-nationalists see him as a biased chiseller who hadn’t even the brains, nevermind respect for the law, to gerrymander competently.
    And the Orange won’t forgive the attempt to embarass the leadership, and certainly won’t be fobbed off by tokenistic appointments, even if he could.
    As for the Commission, it won’t be able to argue the endorsement of two Orangemen on its panel somehow “sugars the pill” of anti-Orange decisions.

    Looks like the day when it is reformed is drawing ever closer….:0)

  • DNDS

    seabhac siulach

    Noting misleading about that, but that is now how the BBC story reads!

  • middle-class taig

    I think it was a try-on, but a laudable and understandable try-on. The judge is being disingenuous when he describes it as inexplicable. Hain was trying to offer the Loyal Orders a bit more of a sense of ownership of the process of decision-making on parades.

    I would like to see the two reapply and be reappointed, this time alongside some representative of residents’ groups. I’m prepared to trust public appointees to discharge their public functions honourably and justly, until proven otherwise, even if they are Orangemen. The nature of this society is that every cheese-larder must be guarded by at least some rats. Public scrutiny over how the rats behave should provide sufficient protection. That’s why judicial reforms are critical.

    Twenty years ago, a Catholic making an application like this would have been laughed out of court.

  • Markkus

    I think Alex Maskey and Martin McGuinness should be appointed to the IMC. Just to give “the other side” confidence in the process, you understand.

  • http://www.youngunionists.org.uk/ Fermanagh Young Unionist

    The things that confuses me on this whole issue is

    1) How can orangemen be chased off the parades commission by the likes of residents groups spokesman Brendan McKenna who also just happens to be a convicted terrorist for apparently being ‘biased and partial’ while all the time there is an ex nationalist MP on the board who no one seems to be questioning.

    2) If having 2 members of a community that is greatly disadvantaged sitting on the board is unlawful, then how come forcing Protestants away from the PSNI just because of their religion is not unlawful?

  • heck

    Markkus

    I’m not so sure. given that gerry wants to propose Big Ian for first minister maybe Alex and Martin would vote to let the OO march the Garvaghy road.

  • http://ulster1912.blogspot.com/ pakman

    seabhac siulach

    “Another reason to get rid of these distracted direct rule ministers as soon as possible… ”

    You don’t seem to unserstand the devolution scheme. Hain, or another organ grinder, will stay – it’s only some of the monkeys who will go.

  • missfitz

    Pete
    This is great, thanks a lot for the links.

    I think I may be ultimately right in that not only are there questions over Burrows and McKay, but that will have to extend to the rest of the commission. I do not see how this Commission can stand the way it is presently constituted.

    What I do find unfortuante is this Commission was of such a better composition than the last one. We have a much better gender and religious balance and it had great promise.

    I hope this isnt a case of shooting oneself in ones foot

  • Stephen Copeland

    missfitz,

    … We have a much better gender and religious balance

    But not political. And that is also important.

    If you’re going to have corporatist government, then all of the stakeholders neeed to be involved.

  • kensei

    “… Brendan McKenna who also just happens to be a convicted terrorist…”

    Just out of interest, what has this to do with anything said here?

  • Bemused

    “Read the text of the Fair Employment Tribunal decision in which McKay featured and you’ll note that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer, sectarian, biggoted oaf. Agree with previous posters on this one – Hain’s arrogance in accusing everyone else of mischief making when he’d acted completely improperly and unlawfully in the first place really takes the biscuit. Still, should be entertaining to hear the High Court give him a ‘Lord No-Brainer’-style kicking on Friday.

    Posted by Bemused on May 16, 2006 @ 11:13 PM”

    How smug am I feeling today……

  • English

    Your all being too harsh on Mr Hain, he is doing a good job in implementing government policy at a fast pace and moving things forward. What he is doing deserves praise:

    1. Water Charges – everyone else in the UK pays this, so why should NI be so special?

    2. Rates Rises – should be at a similar level to the rest of the UK. Why should England subsidise Northern Ireland any longer, if you want better public services it should come out of local pockets.

    3. Setting a deadline on the Assembly and with it the wages of MLA’s who get paid handsomely for doing very little.

    4. Majority rule Super-Councils should in theory be able to reach agreement and govern regionally.

    5. Cutting the Health Service down to size which is massively over-governed for such a small population

    6. Encouraging greater North-South co-operation politically, culturally and economically.

    7. Long overdue demilitarisation and abolishing the RIR.

    8. If Northern Ireland politicians will not move from their positions, the British and Irish governments will do it for them through joint decision making.

    Admittedly it was a blunder appointing such people as Orangemen to the Parades Commission, but he is only human. You have never had it so good!

  • Crataegus

    Little Englander

    On item 3 your views on Prescott please. Both should be financially curtailed?

    You seem to be under the impression that UK citizens who live in NI are in some financial wonderland with French style Health Service.

    On various threads we keep telling you the argument about rates and water charges is about lack of clarity and there is a strong case and genuine concern that there is some financial slight of hand. I for one, and most others accept we have to pay for services but we really would like clarity. Also some of us see it as the first step in privatisation.

    Few here disagree about the need for rationalisation of the provision of services and that they should be delivered efficiently. After so many years of direct rule blow ins someone needs to sort the mess out. With regards the councils the boundaries proposed show a complete lack of understanding of basic geography and will make the efficiency objective unnecessarily difficult. The proposal is asinine.

    I pay a hell of a lot more in tax and rates than I will ever get back in benefits. I am utterly pissed off having to pay for Britain’s role in Iraq (and elsewhere) and I dread the coming handouts that there will be to the nuclear industry. I am sick and tired of paying for services and infra structure in England and the money squandered paying for the Water Service there so it could be sold off. Then there are all those pointless places like Consett which must be bottomless pits. Time the people there got their act together and started paying their way.

    I would welcome the day the South East decides to drop the rest of Britain and stop underwriting much of it so I can retire in comfort to my place in London.

    Either we accept we are in a country and we accept we share costs or we subdivide. Why not get rid of Wales, Scotland and some of the other regions whilst you are at it. Bet you find it doesn’t really improve your lot.

    As for greater North South cooperation its happening despite the impression you may get on Slugger.

    The Blunder Hain made unfortunately is typical of the administration. It follows on a similar reversal of a decision of Rookers.

  • English

    I would say that Prescott is doing and has done a lot of good as Deputy Leader, I would say the problem is he was given too much to do in the firstplace. His role is now comparable with previous Conservative Deputy Leaders. I would say that there is a much better Deputy Leader in the making in Peter Hain, and many are tipping him for this role in future.

    I have never stated that the Health Service is good here, on the contrary it is poor when compared to England. In particular it is glaringly over-governed, with not enough front line staff on the ground. I hope the money saved by cutting two thirds of management and administration is ploughed back into frontline services and waiting lists as promised.

    Water charges are needed to develop an underfunded and underdeveloped water service. Rates are required to pay the Excequer interest on much needed loans to develop public services here.

    Your comment about the SE is a strange one, given that the rest of Britain has suffered due to the insular and selfish economic stategy focusing on London which has been employed by governments. I would welcome the day England concentrated on funding disadvantaged areas of England, instead of funding Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland personally. We get bugger all thanks for it!

  • http://www.youngunionists.org.uk/ Fermanagh Young Unionist

    English, sorry to rain on your parade but your points need to be answered;

    1) Because of water charges as many as 600 jobs are under threat here. And also as far as I know we in Northern Ireland pay more for our commodities such as gas than our English neighbours…

    2) Would you care to explain how you feel that a regional rate increase of 19% in a single year can be justified?

    3) I assure you that many of the MLA’s are still working 6 day weeks, that’s coming from personal experience

    4) These new super councils will result in an even stronger sectarian divide in Northern Ireland, every single party apart from SF (obviously!) are against the move, it is a wholly unpopular idea here

    5) Although Fermanagh got off pretty lucky in regards to the new hospital, it does leave our neighbours in Tyrone disadvantaged. Many are now an hours journey away from their local hospital. Included in this modernisation the British Taxpayer is now having to foot the bill for a brand spanking new hospital, had to buy the new land, will have to spend the millions updating the local roads while all the time demolishing two local hospitals that seemed to be doing just fine

    6) Would you like to start adopting a new French culture? Would you welcome greater ties between the UK parliament and the French? I assume you wouldn’t so why do you try to inflict that on the Northern Irish, who after all do share the Parliament with you! However I am not completely pessimistic on the idea of economic co-operation, if it makes sense yes, if its for purely political motivated reasons no.

    7) Not sure if you have realised but no matter what image the Labour party try to put on, Northern Ireland is still not a normal society. Yes it is better than what it was 10 years ago but we do still have republicans and loyalists capable of taking up their arms at any moment, both are still recruiting and both are still training for conflict. We also have police stations closing up all over the place. Border areas that were protected are now under threat once more, therefore people are becoming afraid again due to a complete lack of security forces.

    8) Just a wee reminder; your British Government is also our British Government, therefore any attempts by them to try to fob us off to the Irish would be perceived with a feeling of utmost betrayal and double-crossing by the majority of people in N Ireland

    And btw we are not lucky to have Hain, a local University professor concluded that he (Hain) is the most anti Unionist Secretary Of State that Northern Ireland has ever had. You will look long and hard before you find a Unionist that has something nice to say about hain

  • English

    1) You pay more for your commodities? Gas – yes because it needs to be piped here and you only have one supplier. Home heating oil – yes, but it is rarely used in England. Insurance – yes, because people put claims in here all the time, unlike in England. Struggling now, er Rates – no, you are getting off scott free compared to England. Housing – no, the biggest single expense of all, is much, much cheaper here. All other commodities are the same as far as I am aware. It is in fact far more expensive to live in England. If you are in the UK you have to pay your way.

    2. 19% over here, is a drop in the Ocean compared to Council tax bills in England.

    3. The clue to this is in the name MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly)they are not serving their purpose – to serve in an Assembly – so they should be sacked.

    4. This will divide the country East/West of the Bann politically. Er, I thought this was the case already?

    5. I do sympathise on what you say here, but the NHS is over-governed here and needs to be radically changed.

    6. You are all born on the island of Ireland and are therefore Irish – wake up and smell the coffee. You have a lot more in common with people over the border than you will ever have with the English! You are partly correct though, I would say that England has more in common with France than with people from Northern Ireland.

    7. England has done enough on this matter alreday and made huge sacrifices, the IRA have disarmed and the threat to England has apparently gone.

    8. Nearly 50% of the population here may disagree with you. The majority of the people of the island of Ireland certainly would. Not to mention the majority of the rest of the UK! Democracy in action!

  • http://www.youngunionists.org.uk/ Fermanagh Young Unionist

    1) Your missing the major point here and that is than in England wages are far higher than here in Northern Ireland, therefore of course a good standard of living is more expensive, since we are now being put under these unfair rules then should NI start demanding increased wages? It cant work both ways

    2) That means 19% increase in one year; we already had high enough rates.

    3) They may not be serving in an assembly but many are still serving their constituents, unless you find that inappropriate?

    4) It will never have been as bad as this, you do realise that these new councils will result in less councillors per head, I will use my ward for example (3sf, 1sdlp, 1uup) This will now be reduced to 2sf with the 3rd seat between sf/sdlp… therefore no unionist representation. This will be happening to unionists all over the west and nationalists all over the east

    5) Agreed

    6) I was born on the island of Ireland but would not consider myself Irish, I have a British passport. And btw I said nothing about England having more in common with France, now now don’t be twisting words…

    7) Well its good to see where your priorities lie, as long as the provos quit bombing you who gives a flying f*ck about your fellow countrymen across the water…

    8) 50% population of where? You do realise the Irish couldn’t afford us even if they wanted us; they prefer the current situation… were being sold to the irish at rock bottom price, they get the power and Britain keeps the peace. And btw that is not democracy that is dictatorship, surely the only people who can decide on Northern Ireland are the Northern Irish (as set out in the GFA)

  • headmelter

    FYU

    “while all the time demolishing two local hospitals that seemed to be doing just fine”

    In the long term it will be much more economically viable to demolish these outdated buildings and centralise the service.

    “And btw we are not lucky to have Hain, a local University professor concluded that he (Hain) is the most anti Unionist Secretary Of State that Northern Ireland has ever had.”

    Only unlucky if you are a unionist I say.

  • headmelter

    FYU,
    “It will never have been as bad as this, you do realise that these new councils will result in less councillors per head, I will use my ward for example (3sf, 1sdlp, 1uup) This will now be reduced to 2sf with the 3rd seat between sf/sdlp… therefore no unionist representation. This will be happening to unionists all over the west and nationalists all over the east”

    Even if nationalists lose council seats all over the east it won’t make any difference as the unionists on the existing councils either don’t share power or don’t recognise the nationalist mandate. So I say to unionists west of the Bann ‘Welcome to our world.’

  • Crataegus

    English

    Your comment about the SE is a strange one, given that the rest of Britain has suffered due to the insular and selfish economic stategy focusing on London which has been employed by governments. I would welcome the day England concentrated on funding disadvantaged areas of England, instead of funding Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland personally. We get bugger all thanks for it!

    The point is it all depends on where you decide to draw the boundary. The South East is the strongest part of the economy and I am sure an argument could be made that it would be better of without the rest of Britain, but as you rightly point out the rest of Britain has suffered due to the insular and selfish economic strategy focusing on London the rest of Britain includes Wales, Scotland, N. Ireland, as well as the North West, Cornwall etc. I think part of the problem in Britain is over centralisation and too much control from Westminster. Devolve a lot of responsibility and power to local councils and let the major conurbations get on with it.

  • Crataegus

    English

    Housing – no, the biggest single expense of all, is much, much cheaper here

    Sorry just can’t let this go, it all depends on where you choose. The price of housing in NI is comparable to many other parts of Britain and is far from being the cheapest region. Obviously if you compare Richmond with York Road there is a considerable difference, but comparing say Coleraine with say Shewsbury and I doubt if there is much difference, and Coleraine may well be more expensive. However even within England there is a wide difference in house price from region to region.

    As for the cost of living, I find it cheaper to live (leaving cost of abode out of it) in central London than NI. Cheaper heating, cheaper electricity, cheaper food, good public transport etc. It could be my strange life style but in my opinion NI is not a cheap place to live.

    England has done enough on this matter already and made huge sacrifices, the IRA have disarmed and the threat to England has apparently gone.

    In my youth I had a friend who was an utter cad. He eventually disappeared to Australia or some such leaving a number of young women to their own devises. Now I tend to believe you should be responsible for what you do and the same applies to countries. The problem in Ireland and the relations between these islands have in large part been created by England and Britain. It is your responsibility. As for sacrifices don’t start me.

    I would say that England has more in common with France than with people from Northern Ireland.

    God I always thought the French were the real enemy, but can see where you are coming from. There are times when I think I have more in common with Bolivia than this place.