Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Hostage taking in NI prisons

Sat 26 November 2011, 8:50pm

Since his election earlier this year Jim Allister has become something of a bête noire for justice minister David Ford. It was Allister who first exposed the possibility of changing the symbols of the prison service and dropping the term “Her Majesty’s Prison” resulting in Peter Robinson’s slap down for Ford. Allister also highlighted the discovery of a large amount of cash being brought to Maghaberry. His latest questions to Ford have produced the revelation that in the past four months six prisoners have taken fellow inmates hostage in Northern Ireland’s gaols: 5 in Maghaberry and 1 in Magilligan.

Allister has ensured that the truffles of power have been causing Ford even more indigestion of late.

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Comments (33)

  1. Its entirely logical that Jim Allister should target David Ford.
    First off he is effectivly the appointee of DUP and Sinn Féin so logically attacking Ford is good value as its also a blow against his puppeteers.
    Also the Ministry itself is a difficult job for anyone and logically to attack the system Allister deplores, he must attack the weakest link.
    Its also reasonable to say that Fords performance is less than stellar. So entirely reasonable that Allister goes after him.
    Not least of course is the fact that Jim Allisters field of expertise is “the “Law”.
    Not entirely sure that Allister can go after every Minister individually. Some arguments he would win. Some he would lose but as a one man band he needs to play the averages…….and he will “win” more out of the Justice Ministry than any other and “win” most of the time head to head with Ford.

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  2. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    It was Allister who first exposed the possibility of changing the symbols of the prison service

    Turgon, I know that it is expected for commentators to be partisan, but this is propaganda. What Allister put out in the Assembly about the name change was pure speculation. Ford’s mistake was not to have seen it coming, and it seems clear that nobody else saw it coming either as the executive clearly were not ready with a response.

    It would be a mistake to confuse Allister’s undoubted cunning at setting traps for people, with good politics. I’m not sure how exactly we benefit from the sort of political leadership which works by dreaming up imaginary threats to unionist cultural symbols and then pretending that some sort of public service has been done by striking these strawmen down.

    As for the point about hostage taking, it is noteworthy that Allister asked a total of five questions at the same time, yet he has only published one set of answers. I’d assume this is, of course, because he hasn’t received the answers yet rather than that the answers might serve to negate his argument.

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  3. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    Judging by the votes that the TUV seem to attract, Jim Allister is also the bête noire of the electorate. He’s strongly detested and avoided by the electorate!

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  4. sonofstrongbow (profile) says:

    Jim Allister is not a kissing babies type of politician, he sometimes comes across as seemingly more inclined to dine on them. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that criticism of him invariably references his public persona.

    His day-job as a barrister, something I believe he is very good at, also regularly gets a kick: no lovable ‘human rights lawyer’ he it would seem.

    Whatever Mr Allister’s motivation may be he at the very least asks questions that challenge the status quo at Stormont. It is surely worrying for the development of a healthy political culture that many local commentators, both professional and amateur, are only roused from their somnolent attitude to local democracy to man-play Jim Allister.

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  5. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    His day-job as a barrister, something I believe he is very good at, also regularly gets a kick: no lovable ‘human rights lawyer’ he it would seem.

    It’d be interesting to get a list of all the people he has represented over the past five years and assess them against the same moral code the TUV use to evaluate the suitability of candidates for ministerial office in the Executive.

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  6. Turgon (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin,
    What utter nonsense. Allister is a barrister. That means he represents people in court. Most of his work was criminal law: hence, it is inevitable that some of the people he represented were charged with serious crimes and equally inevitable that some were convicted (ie were guilty).

    Jim Allister as a barrister was not there to make a moral judgement re the person’s suitability for a job or public office. He was there to represent them against the Crown and try to get them found not guilty. That was his job and is a vital part of the criminal justice process. It does not for one moment mean that Allister was in agreement with the people he was representing.

    Your argument is as logical as suggesting that a TUV supporting nurse should not treat a patient whom they felt not fit for political office.

    Your post Comrade Stalin is man playing against Jim Allister. I should probably take it down but so stupid does it show you as being that I will leave it up. Clearly Jim has you rattled just as he has rattled Ford.

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  7. Charlie Sheens PR guru (profile) says:

    As has been the precedent on slugger before, it’s worth pointing out to those who don’t know already…. Turgon is a TUV member.

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  8. sonofstrongbow (profile) says:

    Turgon is of course correct in his response to Comrade Stalin. By the way I thought it was an accusation leveled solely at unionists to accuse members of the legal profession as being mere proxies for their clients as opposed to professionals doing a job?

    Weirdly Charlie’s gofer goes for a similar angle with the implied suggestion that Turgon is not a credible commentator on the role of a barrister in the criminal justice system because a jobbing barrister leads a political party that Turgon may support.

    Are we to suppose that we must now all make personal interest statements prior to commenting in case anyone believes there is a conflict, however tenuous or ludicrous a connection may be?

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  9. Charlie Sheens PR guru (profile) says:

    Sonofstrongbow,

    As I pointed out, it is precedented. Thanks for second guessing my motives, thats great. Actually I think Turgon provides a decent commentary on most things he attempts.

    You don’t think that is worth pointing out? We have coments of articles on slugger right now accusing the BelTel of various biases and yet right here we have a clear case of bias (not that a bias is itself a problem) and its deemed to be just there to undermine the author.

    The difference is SoS, that the average punter giving their 2 cents worth doesn’t have the same influence as a blogger or an author.

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  10. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Jim Allister as a barrister was not there to make a moral judgement re the person’s suitability for a job or public office.

    Yeah, that’s what I thought.

    Clearly Jim has you rattled just as he has rattled Ford.

    Trust me, I’m not rattled.

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  11. sonofstrongbow (profile) says:

    Charlie etc,

    You will be providing us with your voting antecedents? Just of course to ensure no bias exists on your part and you were not simply making a point as an opponent of the TUV.

    What “influence” do you think Turgon has? How many folks has he recruited to the TUV with his subliminal Allister propaganda do you think?

    My point is I thought Slugger thread authors posted opinion pieces for others to ignore/comment on as the mood took them, an Internet conversation kinda thing. I didn’t think it was a semi-covert hearts and minds psyops portal. I could be wrong of course.

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  12. Charlie Sheens PR guru (profile) says:

    Being a party member is quite a step up from being an occasional party supporter as its a clear party political bias rather than having n opinion which everyone is entitled to.

    Not that my voting history matters, but for your information I’ve voted once for the LibDems in Westminster and once for Libdems and Lab in a council election. Hmmm, don’t think that’ll satisfy you somehow…..

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  13. Lionel Hutz (profile) says:

    Comrade,

    You place a caveat that Barristers should not be criticized for performing their role to the court and the client but then you just go on and do it anyway. This is man play of the highest order.

    Ofcourse you are entitled to make any point you want about the moral inconsistency of representing those accused of crime and then putting on “the political hat” but you cannot expect to be taken seriously as a commentator if you do so.

    Its strange because I would be surprised if Allister’s antics could in any way rattle Ford. The only person who has comeout of badly is the DUP. But you certainly giving the impression that the Alliance is rattled.

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  14. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Hutz,

    You place a caveat that Barristers should not be criticized for performing their role to the court and the client but then you just go on and do it anyway. This is man play of the highest order.

    I’m not criticizing a barrister (Allister has taken on little or no legal work since he was elected as an MEP, to my knowledge). I am criticizing a politician whose morale stance appears to be at odds with his past duties as a barrister.

    Ofcourse you are entitled to make any point you want about the moral inconsistency of representing those accused of crime and then putting on “the political hat” but you cannot expect to be taken seriously as a commentator if you do so.

    I don’t have any particular ambitions that make it important for me to be taken seriously by anyone in particular. If I did, would I be posting anonymously ?

    Its strange because I would be surprised if Allister’s antics could in any way rattle Ford.

    It would be churlish to pretend that Allister’s intervention was not embarrassing.

    The only person who has comeout of badly is the DUP.

    I am not quite sure of that. The DUP have tried to deal with it by turning it into a victorious defeat of a (non-existent) plan to change the name of the prison service.

    But you certainly giving the impression that the Alliance is rattled.

    I can see why you might think that I am rattled, but I don’t see what that has to do with Alliance.

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  15. Lionel Hutz (profile) says:

    Comrade,

    How is it at odds with anything?
    If you believe people have a right to a fair trial, you have a right to govern?

    I dont get your thinking.

    On Ford, the only way that hurt him is if he is pitching to the DUP type voter – people who considered Patten a betrayel etc.

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  16. sherdy (profile) says:

    What caused Jim Allister to ask these pertinent questions? Was it just a hunch or had he received information from his friends in the prison service?
    If the latter, then it is all the more reason for reforms!

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  17. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Turgon, that is an abuse of the yellow card system.

    Hutz :

    How is it at odds with anything?
    If you believe people have a right to a fair trial, you have a right to govern?

    I dont get your thinking.

    {text removed – moderators see below}

    On Ford, the only way that hurt him is if he is pitching to the DUP type voter – people who considered Patten a betrayel etc.

    You don’t think Ford’s public retraction, clearly forced by Robinson, was embarrassing ? That’s very generous of you.

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  18. Turgon (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin,
    I asked Mick about this: he is sick and after telling him what you had said he instructed me to yellow card you. He said that if you continued I was to award a red card.

    This is the first time I have ever carded anyone: I do not like the system but am acting as Mick’s agent in this: nothing else. Indeed as you and most others know I very rarely remove comments from my blogs.

    Now I am publicly warning you that if you continue I will red card you. By all means appeal / take it up with Mick.

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  19. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Turgon,

    Alright, exactly what part are you asking me not to “continue” with ?

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  20. Turgon (profile) says:

    CS,
    The suggestion that Jim Allister saying people are not fit for government is at odds with the fact that in his professional capacity as a barrister he defended people accused of serious crimes.

    I have actually tried to remove your yellow card and would do so if you agreed not to do the above. However, I cannot remove it. As I said I am genuninely sorry but on this I was acting solely as Mick’s agent.

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  21. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Turgon, I don’t believe you; you said above before we got properly kicked off “I should probably take it down but so stupid does it show you as being that I will leave it up.”. This is blatant partisan editing.

    I won’t be contributing any further.

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  22. Turgon (profile) says:

    CS,
    Fine do not believe me: people can believe whoever they want. By all means take it up with Mick.

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  23. sherdy (profile) says:

    Turgon – You told CS that you don’t like the system, but you were only carding him for Mick.
    That’s what I like – someone with principles!

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  24. Turgon (profile) says:

    sherdy,
    Yes the principle is simple: Mick’s site; Mick’s rules. I told him about CS; he told me to card him and seeing as he (Mick) told me he was sick I did the carding for him.

    Now maybe I should have refused but if the site’s owner tells me to do something like this and tells me that the only reason he is not doing it is because he is sick I feel I should do it.

    On the other hand if hypothetecially if Mick told me to kill and eat Comrade Stalin I would refuse. I do not think issuing a yellow card on slugger is something worth a major row about.

    Admitedly if Comrade Stalin was already dead and I was starving I might eat him: then again we do not know how old or palatable he is: however, I digress.

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  25. Lionel Hutz (profile) says:

    I didn’t see Comrade’s reply, but sorry if induced a yellow card. To be fair to Stalin, he stands his ground and argues his point – but i still dont get the logic this time

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  26. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    I can’t see why my comment was removed? It was a contextual argument and was a valid question. That is partisan moderation at its best!

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  27. Turgon (profile) says:

    galloglaigh,
    I am sorry. It was because without Comrade Stalin’s remarks your comments made little sense and disrupted the whole thread. As I said I loathe removing comments but was a bit stuck re CS’s remarks about Jim Allister.

    It is not my personal support for Jim Allister which caused me to remove the comments: I have allowed all sorts of attacks on him on my threads. It was the concern that both Mick and I have re the potential for libel. Libelling one of Northern Ireland’s premier QCs who has an interest in not merely criminal but also libel law is not a terribly smart idea. As such we err on the side of caution.

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  28. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    Turgon

    I accept your apology, but my comment wasn’t libellous. It was a fair question given the people who were commenting, and their accusations against Pat Finucane.

    If Pat Finucane was in the IRA (according to some Sluggerites) because he represented people on IRA charges, do others accept, that the same finger could then by the same logic be pointed at Jim Allister for representing people on LVF charges.

    I hope this comment is not removed, as it does not imply anything, it simply asked a question on a ‘shoe on the other foot’ context.

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  29. Turgon (profile) says:

    galloglaigh,
    I will not be removing it. I slightly modified it to ensure I think it is completely safe. I hope you accept the modification: if not tell me and we can try to sort something out.

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  30. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    Turgon

    Sounds good but the modification wasn’t needed. The same message comes across either way…

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  31. Decimus (profile) black spot says:

    If Pat Finucane was in the IRA (according to some Sluggerites) because he represented people on IRA charges

    Would this be what is reagrded as a ‘strawman’?

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  32. Reader (profile) says:

    galloglaigh: If Pat Finucane was in the IRA (according to some Sluggerites) because he represented people on IRA charges, do others accept, that the same finger could then by the same logic be pointed at Jim Allister for representing people on LVF charges.
    I’m sure that 99% of people here perfectly well understand the role and responsibility of being a defence barrister, and that 99% clearly includes you and probably includes Comrade Stalin. However, the cases aren’t directly comparable, because, so far as I can see, no-one suspects Jim Allister of being a Mob Lawyer.

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  33. tomthumbuk (profile) says:

    When Edwin Poots raised the matter of Pat Finucaine, he did so in reference to Sean O’Callaghan’s allegations, that Mr Finucaine attended a high level IRA meeting in Donegal.
    Not that, as a barrister, he represented republicans.

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