Author Archive | Brian Walker

How to get Martin McGuinness off the hook

Despite the mockery that  greeted it, Arlene Foster’s “phantom budget” has, in the now familiar  phrase of financial crises, “kicked the can down the road,” even as Robinson and McGuinness have been ramping up the rhetoric in the game of chicken.   This has bought time. However, it’s now clear that quite a big road  block more…

As austerity is set to continue whatever, it’s time for civil society to call for a halt in the game of chicken over the budget

The silence from local economists and business people has been deplorably deafening about the game of chicken being played out in the Assembly over the budget and the welfare Bill. Rather than mixing it with the politicians they can perhaps be forgiven for turning to bigger pictures and hoping that the Assembly will do likewise. more…

Abortion pressure continues slowly, slowly

Two interesting blasts from non-natives in the abortion debate have appeared in – can you guess?  Yes! –  in the Guardian and the Independent. In the Indy, London-based Siobhan Fenton has been combing the statistics just out, to find that  that 828 women who had abortions in England and Wales  last year gave Northern Ireland more…

Henry Patterson is half right, but dealing with the past must be broadly based

. Henry Patterson, a historian of high repute from the unionist tradition has entered the debate sparked by the Panorama on collusion, Britain’s Secret Deals. He laments what he sees as unionism’s “parochialism and defensiveness “in failing to challenge the republican narrative  of the Troubles as a struggle for freedom and  justice in common with similar struggles elsewhere. more…

Panorama on collusion: Does Trevor Ringland support coverup?

Trevor Ringland’s criticism of Darragh MacIntyre’s Panorama on collusion for rewriting history with a political slant is misguided.  The documentary  gave examples of  a spectrum of collusion ranging from loose handling of informers to covering up agents who were multiple repeat killers, sometimes with the foreknowledge of their  handlers.  Much of the material is in the de Silva more…

Not all the zombies are politicians. This is also civil society’s failure

Not so long ago, Northern Ireland  politics were conducted in a seething cauldron. Today they’re in zombieland.  Nobody seems to know what sort of situation is facing  Northern Ireland in the  forthcoming days, weeks and months. Your starter for 10. Is it bailout, surrender or just staggering on?   At home, nobody can be bothered even to more…

In Prince Charles’ visit there is richer significance than a handshake with Gerry Adams

It was probably inevitable but the UK coverage of Prince Charles’ handshake with Gerry Adams  exaggerated its significance.  The heavy lifting for reconciliation was done by the royals when the Queen and Prince Philip shook hands with Martin McGuiness in the Lyric Theatre, opening the door to a filmed audience as DFM last year. Prince Philip’s more…

New British Bill of Rights would alter the Good Friday Agreement

The new Conservative government appears to be moving fast to  enact a new  British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act of 1998 which is one of the cornerstones of the Good Friday Agreement. Tory dislike of the HRA has nothing to do with the Agreement. Indeed as so often happens, Northern Ireland more…

The election exposed the faint breath of a desire for change within the sectarian camps.

All true democrats should thrilled to have it confirmed that politics is not dominated by the polls. Real people apparently can think for themselves. Locally LucidTalk’s amazingly hairy exercises with opinion panels fared better  in the prediction stakes than the  UK national pollsters, even though playing percentages  is a whole lot easier than making firm more…

How do we decide who forms the next UK government?

We in the Constitution Unit of University College London have produced  guidance on the arrangements for forming the next UK government, assuming there is a hung parliament. The short  answer first is:  it’s complicated and great fun for anoraks but it shouldn’t mean a constitutional crisis. David Cameron stays in office on a caretaker basis. Under more…

What the manifestos of the Northern Ireland parties don’t say…

Practically everything of importance, as far as I can make out from the cloudy rhetoric. What unites them?  Yes!  Abolish air passenger duty!  But save us from tough decisions. Blame the Brits or seek their help or possibly both at once. As befits the party’s expected numbers,  the DUP’s manifesto is about positioning  for after more…

The tangled web of history that will greet Prince Charles

In the shadow of black  Ben Bulben,  news of a visit by Prince Charles more than a quarter of a century later to the site of his great uncle Earl Mountbatten’s murder in  Mullaghmore harbour, brings back vivid memories.  It will fill gaps in his own experience and knowledge of Irish and family history. There more…

Roy Mason, the last to believe in outright IRA defeat

Roy Mason who has died aged 91 was  Northern Ireland Secretary of State  from 1976 to the end of the Labour government in 1979. He was  “short in stature and long in self confidence “ as David McKittrick  rightly described him. He even designed his own peculiarly vented and lapelled tight fitting light khaki suits. When I last more…