Author Archive | Brian Walker

At last our leaders are starting to take a realistic line to cope with cuts

Credit where credit’s due, while commending Bystander’s vigilance. Simon Hamilton cuts a competent figure as minister of finance, blowing the trumpet for the financial aspects of the Stormont House Agreement. This is what a finance minister is for, rather than sniping at colleagues. Meanwhile  the Agreement has attracted the rare attention of the Economist which more…

The PSNI’s latest move against the Boston archive is unintelligent

Henry McDonald in the Observer has picked up on the PSNI’s latest incursion into Boston tapes morass. There is a blinkered police logic to this that contradicts the stated expectations of the law officers of the low likelihood of future prosecutions.   Pursue the Bloody Sunday paras and  give Gerry Adams lousy food in Antrim more…

A spirit of genuine power sharing is needed to make more powers work for the Scottish Parliament

Power sharing of the genuine sort  is clearly needed to make work the complexity contained in the 44 draft clauses of legislation to grant sweeping new powers to the Scottish Parliament. But not for a while yet, if ever. David Cameron’s visit to Edinburgh to present the Command Paper was marked by political jostling much more complicated more…

Lessons from Chilcott apply to dealing with the past

Why is it when the search is on for instructive examples, that Ireland is seldom looked at by British movers and shakers?  Over  the behaviour of militantly anti-austerity parties when the focus is on Greece, an alternatively financed  health service, the behaviour of coalition governments, what a constitutional convention might achieve, Ireland  has a wealth of more…

Spreading the word in the Irish language requires a new beginning

I thought I’d tiptoe into the minefield of the “Irish Language Act”, an area where the massed ranks of persuadables risk getting wasted by the zealots, but here goes. Concubhar is right, there should be a mature discussion. I’m one of those who shrugged off Gregory Campbell’s leaden humour and hoped that most language supporters felt more…

Tony Blair to face OTRs’ grilling by MPs

The Commons Northern Ireland select committee delving into the undergrowth of the On the Runs controversy have won one major battle but lost a separate skirmish with the NIO. Tony Blair has surrendered to their pressure and will appear before them next Tuesday. However, Theresa Villiers and the Northern Ireland Office are being unnecessarily defensive in refusing more…

It’s the economy, stupid. Not a federal Ireland

In the Irish Times Paul Gillespie floats the idea that the North might benefit by a federal deal with the south. He invokes the useful hand played by the Republic in the recent Stormont House agreement. Certainly Charlie Flanagan waxed more eloquently than Theresa Villiers but that isn’t saying much. I discern a much bigger more…

The star of wonder shines through the Christmas Agreement

In Northern Ireland God seems to work in mysterious ways  his wonders  to perform  at peak moments in the Christian calendar. Sixteen years after the Good Friday ( or Belfast ) Agreement, we have the Christmas ( or Stormont House) Agreement. Behind the details the main features are: Apparently genuine efforts by the parties to end deadlock by more…

On Welfare and the Budget, reality for Stormont is acceptable

Only the rashest observer would claim that s/he has a complete understanding of the complexities of welfare payments and reform and the  other details of the negotiations that are said to be reaching a climax. My feeling is that they are less about negotiations and more about accepting realities they can live with. On welfare more…

Outsourcing solutions may be the secret of dealing with more than the past

Well, perhaps amid the encircling gloom the political parties have seen some light at last. The details of the agreement on welfare reform are awaited but it looks as if any new money will come from Westminster mainly to deal with the past which is surely fair. Adds: United Executive request for a total of £2.1 billion over 10 more…

Time for other parties to break Executive ranks as Sinn Fein sacrifices northern interests for southern ambitions

Following on from Mick, let’s  begin by making the best possible case for Sinn Fein, the party which seems the most intransigent in the inter- party talks. The Conservatives’ strategy for the next five years to a produce budget surplus of £23 billion by 2019-20 is probably unsustainable, unless the rate of growth picks up more…

What Stormont must do to convince Cameron to up his offer

Are the political parties still hoping that David Cameron will turn into a White Knight and Save Ulster from Austerity?  What does Stormont have to do to persuade him to answer  their pleas to up his offer? Among the elements are: devising a proper three year  plan for the first time so as the world more…

Assembly reform without real change in political outlook means little

The reform ideas for  the beleaguered  Stormont Assembly  disclosed by the BBC are well intentioned.  but they’re the wrong treatment on the wrong diagnosis, as the disease is the failure of our politicians to  work together effectively.  Note that they’re being put forward by the British government five months ahead of the deadline of May more…

Wuz Rory really robbed of glory?

Just like the politicians, outrage seems to be the default position  if we don’t get our way, this time over  sporting prizes,  judging from the Belfast Telegraph’s reaction to Rory McIroy, the bookie’s favourite,   pipped  by Lewis Hamilton for BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Angry Northern Ireland sports fans last night slammed the shock more…

The time approaches for Westminster to impose a settlement

The time has come to put cards on the table.  The British government should publish its funding proposals and refuse point blank to entertain a return to direct rule or even a suspension of the Assembly. If necessary it should impose a financial settlement.  This would reverse the natural rhythm of devolution whereby the centre more…

Is the arrival of Cameron and Kenny more than part of a tired old ritual?

 The credibility and effectiveness of the devolved institutions is on the line, writes  David Cameron. Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy  warned if a deal isn’t done then the Northern Executive will “crash”. “The implications are that the Executive can’t continue to function. You go into a crash and you go back to an election and more…

RIP Fred Catherwood

All of forty years ago I sought  the views of Sir Fred Catherwood who has died aged 85, about Northern Ireland – I can’t remember what aspect exactly. I interviewed him in his  a large and rather bleak East Anglian house – a house rather like his religion I thought at the time ( rather unfairly). more…

New powers for Scotland threaten constitutional crisis for the UK

David Cameron’s claim that the Smith report will create “a stronger Union “ rings hollow when  set against  his insistence that the case for  English votes on English laws is “ unanswerable,”  If it means that English MPs should have a veto on any measure they don’t like that a future  Labour government proposes, it will more…