Author Archive | Brian Walker

Adams and Campbell.. the essence of sectarian politics

Eamonn McCann’s analysis of the “war of words “ between Gerry Adams’ “Unionist bastards”  and Gregory “toilet paper” Campbell reminds me an insight about political behaviour from the former Irish Times journalist and ex Unionist politician Frank Millar, whose regular  acute observations are sorely missed. Gained by close observation in the hot house of the more…

Devo Max with corporate tax cut ” disastrous” for NI

This powerful case against the SNP’s Devo Max plans including a 3% cut in corporation tax is made in the academic  website The Conversation by  Arthur Midwinter Associate Professor, Institute of Public Sector Accounting Research at University of Edinburgh  and a former adviser to the former Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament  Johann Lamont. It more…

Corporation tax powers huge test for Stormont

The word is out that the government will grant  Stormont control over corporation tax when the Chancellor makes his Autumn Statement on 3 December.  Peter Robinson is  talking with the confidence of a done deal.  David Cameron gave a broad hint this morning as he was  grilled by  all the select committees chairs in the more…

Barnett formula bonus won’t last

The present and future  cuts may seem tough – and they are – but here I belatedly post the good news from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), s that they could be much worse, were it not for a” flaw “ in the Barnett formula for allocating the block grant.  The calculations presented in more…

Assembly reform needed but to enable rather than to block

Rick Wilford the recently retired professor of Politics at Queens, provides  an analysis in the Belfast Telegraph  of the deadlock in power sharing that is as bleak as it is authoritative. “That there is a case for reforming the Assembly and the Executive is irrefutable”… This was recognised by all parties at St Andrews, where more…

A strategy for the SDLP in the Assembly

SDLP Logo

With 14 seats in a 108 multi-party Assembly elected by STV, the SDLP still has a viable future. THE POLITICAL CONTEXT The cliché goes that the SDLP’s mission is over, now that equality and power sharing have been achieved. It has also been argued that Trimble and Mallon let down the new consensus in the more…

Could the UK quitting the EU undermine the Good Friday Agreement?

In  an Irish Times  piece subtitled  “If the UK leaves the EU, the North’s status will change, perhaps disastrously” veteran commentator  Dennis Kennedy  gets  bogged down in in his own “fantasy.” He’s right in one respect, that any bid by a Conservative- led  government  to quit the EU  by referendum would undoubtedly shake a union more…

Hugh Orde attacks Matt Baggott and police inspectorate over the fate of the Historical Enquiries Team

The investigative journalist John Ware has laid bare a furious disagreement between senior police officers over the record and fate of the Historical Enquiries Team, which was finally and suddenly scrapped in September. The HET’s demise combined with cuts to the Police Ombudsman’s budget   means that for the first time ever, there is effectively no more…

The phoney crisis over the Budget is an indictment of our politics

The brinkmanship over the budget is over. The emptiness of a threat to return to Direct Rule has been exposed. Martin McGuinness’s attempts to create a late Hallowe’en scare over the prospects of what Direct Rule might mean in reality amounted to the agenda for future Executive action that still awaits – including water charges and perhaps some more…

New GCHQ head takes on Google over the terrorist threat

In the FT today, (£) Robert Hannigan now the new head of GCHQ  whom I knew well as the NIO  director of communications,  has opened a new chapter in the debate over privacy versus security in the digital world. He accuses the technology giants of being in denial about the internet as a command and control more…

Johann Lamont: a necessary defenestration

Poor Johann Lamont, the leader of Scottish Labour leader who was always out of her depth and no time more so than during the referendum campaign when the Tory leader Ruth Davidson clearly outshone her. The BBC headline writer’s verdict is cruel  but accurate: Johann Lamont resignation: A leader without influence The post referendum message more…

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…