Author Archive | Brian Walker

Adams and McGuinness: hard cop, soft cop routine

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What are we to make of this?  Who calls the shots? Gerry Adams 24 September ( party leader but unelected in the jurisdiction he’s pronouncing on) Sinn Féin would be willing to allow the Northern Ireland Executive fall and new elections called if the parties cave in to the British government imposing budget cuts of up to more…

Time to call Sinn Fein’s bluff over welfare

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John Simpson, an economist who deserves to be trusted, dismissed the Great Welfare  Crisis as essentially bogus months  ago – yet his analysis seems to have failed to pass into political  debate and comment from the Business pages.   It might help if  critics of Sinn Fein’s grandstanding spoke on the basis  of an agreed analysis. OFFICIAL Treasury more…

Talks on the past, no talks on the welfare deadlock, a border poll? No prizes for guessing what they amount to.

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 Government by tweet is a curse as it fends off searching inquiry. Twitter is a blessing for the non-information strategies of government by politburo. I’ve never known a time when it’s been more difficult for political correspondents to do their jobs.  Is Liam Clarke of the Belfast Telegraph right when he fears a slow slide more…

The “what ifs? ” of our past play a part in dealing with it today

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The row over former taioseach John Bruton’s regret that the Easter Rising ever happened goes on. Will historian Diarmaid Ferriter have the very last word? In his latest sally in the Irish Times, Ferriter attacks the exaggerated use of the counterfactual, the “what if” school of history. His argument to  Bruton is basically simple –look, more…

Right then, let’s think hard about a border poll

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The political conditions for the Scottish referendum were simple compared to anything likely to apply in Ireland.  With the dominance of the proportionality principle in the institutions, the weight of the GFA is against it and a new political chapter would have to be turned before it is conceivable. It would become a potential result of a more…

Has anything been happening while I’ve been away?

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For the past few of months I’ve been buried in other projects, not least the Scottish referendum. So Northern Irish affairs are as inward looking and deadlocked as ever. Well I never! Paisley’s death passed off with little fuss amid the  customary respect the Irish reserve with fingers crossed  for the recently dead in contrast to more…

McGregor, an ancestor of John Kerry is labelled the Irish Moses, as US monitors persecution of Christians

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  It’s amazing what the Economist picks up… the half forgotten and much missed tradition of Presbyterian liberalism, forced to emigrate to the States and often confused there with the Irish Catholic variety. Could they have possibly read Turgon? DOES the Obama administration care about religious liberty round the world? In some ways, it has more…

Theresa in the Wonderland of the Hallett review

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The plainly rushed Hallett Review and the British government response to it raise as many questions as answers. They expose not a carefully planned discreet operation but a terribly improvised muddle in which the  left hand ( the  PSNI)  did not know the full de facto amnesty effect of what the right hand ( the more…

Intercept evidence could convict terrorists, says former SoS Murphy

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As a  curtain raiser to Lady Justice Heather Hallett’s  review of OTRs’  “ administrative scheme” due out tomorrow (Thursday), the mild-mannered former Labour secretary of state Paul Murphy has told the separate  inquiry into the affair by the Commons Northern Ireland Select Committee that more convictions might have been obtained if the rules of evidence more…

Why is Irish nationalism neutral on Scottish independence?

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Martin Mansergh is a splendid relic of an old Anglo-Irish tradition, a Tipperary landlord, one of a very rare breed of Fianna Fail intellectuals, an adviser on the North to successive Fianna Fail Taoisigh, a minster who never quite fulfilled his promise possibly due to his background, a historian and son of Nicholas, one of more…

“Gay cake” case may prompt top level legal rethink

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The life story of Andrew Muir, the mayor of North Down is part of Northern Ireland’s long journey towards civilisation – including the fact that as an openly gay person he made it to mayor at all. It was his Bangor reception that sparked the Great Cake Discrimination Case. Even so, the case may not more…

Where the big arguments for devolution are heading

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This post most of which I mainly wrote for an academic blog gives anyone interested a heads up on a more sophisticated theatre of devolution – Scotland –  assuming it votes No in the referendum. A couple of points to start with. First, taxation is the big theme. How much of its own revenue should more…

Burnside bounces back with oligarchs

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  The Guardian has noted the blossoming  PR career of David Burnside since he lost his south Antrim Westminster seat in 2005. As a training ground for a career in the brutal and suspicious world of post-Soviet business, the enmity of hardline Northern Irish politics is hard to beat. That is the path trodden by more…

The governments must intervene now to press responsibility on Stormont

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Even if the Stormont institutions haven’t reached the point of existential crisis. the breakdown of interparty talks before they’d even started does not augur well for progress on any front. Can anyone imagine Stormont being able to agree on legislation to help people cross the road, never mind deal with the legacy of the Troubles?   Lack more…

Now it’s the PSNI in the dock. Chaos over the past deepens as political deadlock over Haas agenda continues

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At last the clash has come between accountability and transparency and “national security” over dealing with the past. After the unhappy period of Al Hutchinson we have a Police Ombudsman in the assertive tradition of Nuala O’Loan. Michael Maguire who was also Hutchinson’s successor as Police Oversight Commissioner probably knows where quite few bodies are buried more…

Tourism figures for 2013 bring us down to earth

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The figures for tourism to Northern Ireland in 2013 out last week show a more modest reality than the hype suggesting it’s just about the most visited place on the planet. The numbers visiting from overseas amounted to just 9,000.  Home holidays and short trips and family visits accounted for most of the rest. It’s not more…