Author Archive | Brian Walker

Votes for the SNP bind them closer into the Union

Votes for the SNP in the general election would bind the SNP closer into the Union especially if Labour  form the government. This was becoming even clearer from the analysis of the gap between Labour’s and the SNP’s austerity plans by Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies. ( Times £) What is clear is that more…

James Molyneaux, master of Ulster Unionist immobility remembered

Of the newspaper  obits of Jim Molyneaux so far Chris Ryder’s ( ex Sunday Times) captures him best. He became leader  of the Ulster Unionist party first at Westminster then overall, largely  because  he was the senior man at Westminster and Stormont flickered into half-life for only a few short months during his time. A more…

Calm down, Alex Salmond is not Attila the Hun

The appeals to Labour to put the Union first and spurn an SNP deal coming from Tory warhorses John Major and Ken Baker sound very statesmanlike. But what do they really mean, with Labour just ahead of the Tories in the forecasts?  First, based on all the predictions of main party scores and an SNP more…

O’Loan calls Stormont House Agreement ” an insult” as Labour promises a Pat Finucane inquiry

Amnesty International are not alone in finding the resources allocated in the Stormont house Agreement inadequate for dealing with the past. At a meeting of RightsWatch  in Westminster last night,  the first Police Ombudsman  Baroness Nuala O’Loan  was scathing, describing the allocation of £150 million over 5 years to deal with all the issues of more…

After the Stormont House Agreement, will the latest initiative to bring state actors to account become the one that succeeds?

The UK government stands accused of continuing  to cover up state misbehaviour in a humdinger of a Report just published by the legal experts of the  Committee on the Administration  of Justice. The report is the supporting analysis for  renewed pressure on the authorities who have pledged to set up “ new mechanisms” in the form more…

Signs of real politics emerging from Stormont House Agreement

Be grateful for small mercies. With less than a hundred days to go before the election, implementing the Stormont Hose Agreement has had the effect of postponing the worst kind of  dog-eat -dog  sectarian  campaigning – so far. Sinn Fein like the rest of them have had to swallow the basics of the Welfare Bill more…

Gordon Brown, the lone voice in defence of the Union

In his latest interventions on the future of the Union, Gordon Brown proposes wider devolution for Scotland than the Conservative-led UK government proposes but less power than the Conservatives recommend for English MPs to vote on English laws, which he seems to believe could be fatal for the future of the Union. Brown has drawn more…

Making haste slowly in dealing with the past

In the words of the old witticism, in dealing with the past  there’s no Northern Ireland equivalent  to the Spanish  mañana  that has quite the same sense  of urgency, despite the £30 million earmarked for  legacy issues by the Stormont  House agreement. Or is that too bleak a view? Patricia Bell (67), is seeking to challenge more…

Is no DUP in the TV debates good for Northern Ireland’s image?

If I understand him rightly, Newton Emerson in the Sunday Times (£) regrets the absence (subject to expensive  legal action if it happens, which I doubt) of the Northern Ireland parties from the UK national TV election debates – if they finally happen. What Newton regrets tongue in cheek is the absence of a national airing more…

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…