Author Archive | Brian Walker

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…

An alternative take on Northern Ireland on the networks

Mick who follows these things more closely than I do these days is also keener prospector for nuggets than I am.  I’m afraid I can’t see much to attract the uncommitted voter to the election campaign in Northern Ireland, other than those who feel like a flutter on the results in Fermanagh and South Tyrone more…

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…