Author Archive | Brian Walker

The Lords held the wrong debate

There was quite a lot of noble handwringing in that Lords debate that needs unpicking. Dealing with the past was confused with dealing with the present impasse. There is of course a link but they are really two clean different things.  It was odd to hear Paul Bew, a historian who has dedicated much of more…

For Scotland today, idealism like Ireland 1916, or be careful of what you wish for?

Guardian columnist Martin Kettle makes a bold comparison between the generational change in Ireland 1916 and the “energising “ impact of the Scottish independence referendum of 2014. He’s inspired by Roy Foster’s marvellous new book which I’m only just into: “Vivid Faces.” In his review Maurice Hayes quotes Holywood’s Bulmer Hobson who faced house  arrest more…

Another Cahill angle entirely…

Well I never. Mairia Cahill’s late doting old great uncle exposed as a tout by – the  Daily Mirror! According to Mairia he had advised her to go the RUC . It smelt like an alibi for the Provos when she referred to it in that riveting Spotlight interview. But this! Joe Cahill, who helped found the Provisional IRA, more…

North -South is a political gift going a-begging

Two cheers to the Financial Times (£) for giving space to one of the many topics that people in Northern Ireland who live close to it take for granted but shouldn’t. The story is headlined “Irish two-speed economy puts integration under pressure”. Sixteen years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement that ushered in a more…

Saving the Ulster Orchestra is by any standards, a priority

Music Makes The World A Better Place

The modern trend in Orwellian-sounding government cultural policy is to head for the grass roots to look for new mainsprings of creativity. It has a variety of motives and aims. In GB,  the policies of the  DCMS and in Northern Ireland DCal and the priorities of various cash-strapped Arts Councils are also about investing in arts jobs and more…

A great example of cross border cooperation. More needed

This is a key example of the sort of all-island planning that should be speeded up in all sectors.  Good to see that flag waving doesn’t come into it. But the “black hole” must be filled. .. fears have been voiced that more families will face a uncertainty over where operations will take place in England more…

Shirlow on the gap between slowly shifting attitudes and political positions

Peter Shirlow has to deal with politicians and so cannot afford to sound completely exasperated or polemical. Informed  by his detailed work in the communities  he discusses the perceived gap between public attitudes and the starker political  positions in the Belfast Telegraph, in the light of the recent LucidTalk poll commissioned by the paper. I would only add more…

On Jonathan Powell – a vision is needed for talking to terrorists

I haven’t yet managed to read Jonathan Powell’s new book: Talking to Terrorists: How to End Armed Conflicts”,  but potted  versions like this one in Prospect magazine  delivers his thesis with his usual crispness. “In democracies we cannot kill all the terrorists, so we will have to talk to them at some stage! And just in more…

Is Stormont fit to take the gamble on a lower corporation tax?

The economist James Stewart of Trinity College Dublin  has revealed details of the extent of legal tax dodging  (£) involved in the Republic’s tax much vaunted 12.5% business tax rate in the Financial Times He argues that  the Republic’s government seems not be aware that a vast quantity of profits  are not subject to corporation tax anywhere more…

Dealing with the past is – past

People may not have woken up to the fact  that inquiries into Troubles cases have ground to a halt. This is said to be  as a result of the financial pressures on the PSNI as disclosed by the Belfast Telegraph.  The Historical Enquiries team has been wound up,  the historical  role of the Police  Ombudsman which was  once progressed more…

Adams and McGuinness: hard cop, soft cop routine

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

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.

 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

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

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?

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

  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

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

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…