Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Profile for Brian Walker

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

Latest posts from Brian Walker (see all)

Brian Walker has posted 1,568 times (9 in the last month).

“Poll: Scotland on the brink of independence” Time to panic?

Tue 22 April 2014, 11:55am

Tweet For Scotland on Sunday to strike such a headline shows it’s time to panic says the Speccie. “Mr Darling and his allies in Better Together have to wake up to the fact that they have managed to blow a 20-point lead in a few months and the gap between the two sides looks like […] more »

The Easter Rising: romance and regret but no barrier to reconciliation

Tue 22 April 2014, 12:18am

Tweet in response to David McCann’s very personal and sincere post, I must say that the Rising is part of my history but not part of my cause. I approach it with fascination and regret. Regret for the delayed victory for physical force it represented. But how could it not inspire? The world was in turmoil; nothing would […] more »

More evidence that the Westminster village is waking up to the threat of Scottish independence

Thu 17 April 2014, 1:07pm

Tweet John McTernan is among the shrewdest of political strategists. As quoted by David McCann, he offers  “don’t panic” advice to fellow strategists. What’s missing here are reasons for Scots to vote No. The McTernan view isn’t cutting  it with leading commentators on the centre left and right. Martin Kettle in the Guardian The psychological impact in England, […] more »

The route to better government is clear. Why don’t the parties take it?

Sun 13 April 2014, 12:46pm

Tweet Nuff history  – Ed.  Thanks to Alan and Chris Donnelly for presenting significant data on how Northern Ireland is faring. The third CRC Peace Monitoring Report by Dr Paul Nolan reads  authoritatively, quite depressingly and utterly unsurprisingly. At around the same time, some polls have been published which broadly reflect the results but with […] more »

Lissadell, always romantic. But the jinx lingers

Sat 12 April 2014, 2:34pm

Tweet It is surely the quintessential Irish story of romance, divided family loyalties,  declining wealth and fierce litigation. Over Lissadell  it has extended  through the painful transition from   the Anglo-Irish  to the meritocratic blow-ins of today who so often try to ape the  style of the ould dacency.  And still struggle continues, with the successors every bit […] more »

After the Visit, the greater epiphany?

Sat 12 April 2014, 12:28am

Tweet What we saw in Windsor Castle this week was a delayed act of official reconciliation that should have taken place fifty years ago but was held up by the Troubles. It was in reality the unfinished business of closing a sequence of turmoil that began over a century ago, whose shadow is finally lifting […] more »

It takes the threat to Cameron’s survival to wake Westminster up to the threat of Scottish independence

Thu 3 April 2014, 9:51am

Tweet Signs are emerging that the Westminster village, which usually treats north of Hampstead Heath as terra incognita, is at last waking up to the  real threat of Scottish independence.  The contrast couldn’t be starker between the obsession of the English right wing with a phantom referendum over Europe and the real one in Scotland that […] more »

The Scottish referendum. The British identity that dare not speak its name

Sun 30 March 2014, 7:42pm

Tweet   The best article I’ve seen about the dearth of a cultural identity debate in Scotland by Alex Linklater, son of the great Magnus. Could Scots learn a thing or two from the Irish? Or maybe not?  You’d have thought the Scottish cultural air would be thrumming with an accrued history of intellectual fighting […] more »

Lamentation over the Boston tapes does not prevent us dealing with the past

Sun 30 March 2014, 2:19pm

Tweet Newton Emerson ‘s bleak assessment of how to deal with the past deserves serious attention (£). The Boston College tapes make a mockery of all high-blown talk about “dealing with the past”. The idea that a formal process of investigation, truth recovery and historical assessment into 3,700 Troubles deaths could work at all, let […] more »

Reliance on the Boston tapes would be a long term mistake

Sat 22 March 2014, 6:56pm

Tweet I have no particular sympathy for this frail 77 year old grandfather. There may indeed be short term gains in bringing the case to court. The reliability of the Boston tapes as evidence will be tested. Will corroboration in any form be produced? If the tapes are regarded as sufficient in this case what […] more »

Latest comments from Brian Walker (see all)

Brian Walker has commented 1,082 times (10 in the last month).

  1. Comment on The Easter Rising: romance and regret but no barrier to reconciliation
    on 22 April 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Well now of course I haven’t said all that can be said about the leaders or anything else.

    Seann.. The climax of Pearse’s life was the Rising and he expected, indeed longed, to be judged on it. Otherwise, St Enda’s would have been only a footnote in the story of the language movement. Pearse may have been a committed educationalist but even here he seems to have over compensated with a certain shrill Irish Irishness. I admit that’s a matter of taste.

    He was no monster. The Proclamation is a moving document and he had a hand in it I believe. His surrender is well documented and impressed those who talked to him. He reminds me of a very different character the great poet Gerard Manley Hopkins who following John Henry Newman taught in UCD for a while 25 years or so previously. There is a similar strain of private ecstasy put into words suggesting suppression that both had in common – in Hopkins case non- politically. I decided to call a halt before going on to Kevin O Higgins.

    I could have reflected that Desmond FitzGerald must have been a disaster as chief cook in the GPO if he was anything like his son Garret. A few years ago I spent a pleasant hour with Garret going through his fathers’ collection of British imperial comics and stories of derring-do. That’s as close as I got to the people of 1916

    Nevin.. as usual you really know what I mean. The self sacrifice..

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  2. Comment on “it struck me that there was an air of inevitability about the whole thing…”
    on 15 April 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I’m not quite sure what Alex Kane is saying .Yes, he’s right to register the gap between the metropolitan centres and the northern periphery which will not be allowed any longer to put a drag on the relationship between the States. And about time too. But I’m not with him when he says: “One thing is clear: the Assembly will not survive if the DUP and Sinn Fein cannot find it within themselves to govern together in the best interests of everyone in Northern Ireland.”

    The Assembly will survive unless the parties themselves pull the plug. They have absolutely no incentive to do so. We are in limbo (or maybe purgatory, old school theologians?) not in hell . With slow recovery on the way in the south ( yes it is), the other Dublin parties will be entitled to point out that if SF continues to make a bog of governing in NI despite all the money thrown at them why should they be trusted with a share of it in the Republic? Other than that, bribery from London is just about finished and despite warm words at the banquet and Downing St. I wouldn’t count on anything more coming from London and Dublin at all -with the Union under threat and post bailout politics dominating the south and elections, elections and more elections to win or lose .
    . NI has never had less impact outside its own territory. “Change is inevitable, “ says Alex. If so, from below, surely. Sadly there is so little pressure to change built into a political system in which everyone wins prizes.

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  3. Comment on Lissadell, always romantic. But the jinx lingers
    on 13 April 2014 at 10:31 am

    There’s a contrary view of Constance to Yeats’ I can’t resist quoting Kevin Myers’ column in the Sunday Times, attacking the idea of 1916 “celebrations.” I know, I know, over the top for most people but all the same, a great provocative read…

    “In her fine work Renegades, Ann Matthews quotes nurse Geraldine Fitzgerald, who saw Constance Markievicz with a pistol in one hand and a cigarette in the other. “[W]e] saw a policeman walking down the footpath . . . we heard a shot,” the eyewitness recalled. “The countess ran triumphantly into the Green, saying ‘I got him’, and some of the rebels shook her by the hand and seemed to congratulate her.” Good stuff, though perhaps the cigarette should be edited out: we don’t want to give children wrong ideas.
    So when the royal party arrives at St Stephen’s Green, some lucky person is going to have to explain why we erected a bust to this aristocratic lady (born at Buckingham Gate, London, a stone’s throw from the palace) for shooting dead an unarmed peasant from Clare as if he were a mere pheasant at Lissadell….”

    “Anyway, there’s absolutely nothing to celebrate about this period, whether on the rolling pastures of Picardy, the iron ramparts of Verdun, the Lakes of Masuria or in the smoky streets of Dublin, as civilisation was butchered on the cannibal-altars of national pride and imperial hubris. Europe can only contemplate this period with a deep shame at the many millions of lost and ruined lives.
    The Easter Rising admittedly brought in its train fresh freedoms: the freedom to murder policemen emerging from mass, to expel thousands of Protestants and even burn down the Protestant orphanage in Clifden, the freedom for the new Irish government to execute 77 captives, the freedom to impose a Catholic ethos on the entire population, and the freedom to censor. In 1956, a Labour justice minister boasted in the Dail that 6,169 books were on the banned list. That decade, hundreds of thousands of people fled this republic, which had effectively become western Europe’s only failed democratic state.”

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  4. Comment on While Britain and Europe’s tectonic plates move, we argue about Orangemen and Ardoyne
    on 12 April 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Nice one isn’t it?

    Comparisons.. Norway and Sweden..
    Both countries are members of the Schengen Area, and there are therefore no immigration controls. However, only Sweden is part of the European Union, so there are customs checks. These are performed by the Norwegian Customs and Excise Authorities and the Swedish Customs Service. These checks are sporadic along the Norway–Sweden border. Both countries emphasise checks against other countries.

    But the UK isn’t part of Schengen. Could Ireland, Scotland and rUK negotiate a new temporary common travel area? I’ve also heard an eminent legal authorities arguing for the EU to keep the customs union for Scotland until full EU membership is negotiated and a decision is reached on any in-out referendum for rUK.

    Pretty tricky stuff. Is it to be back to the pre-1965 Irish border, when the UK and Ireland negotiated a free trade treaty?

    The Swiss have just voted in a referendum for immigration controls to the annoyance of Brussels. What we could be seeing is a far looser EU. I agree it’s all very hairy. The London government is refusing to discuss the options even hypothetically in advance of the September referendum.

    I’m with Mr Micawber on this..

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  5. Comment on After the Visit, the greater epiphany?
    on 12 April 2014 at 12:29 pm

    I hardly expected my analysis to be welcomed with open arms but I’m pleasantly surprised to see how retrained and limited are the criticisms. The appeals to democracy which Unionists are held to have violated are no kind of clincher as there was no agreement over the territory to which democracy applied. I’ve gone only a little further here than orthodoxy in the Republic which amounts to a considerable victory for revisionism. This revisionism is of course about more than history, being more concerned to promote harmony between different traditions today. Whatever the flaws in revisionism for historians, I do think it’s broadly true that southern nationalism made a fundamental error in underestimating unionist power right up to the GFA – ironically at a point when that power can be seen to have considerably declined.

    We are now it seems to me in a state of some flux when the unionist majority has almost disappeared but political debate of an emerging new situation is suppressed for fear of reviving past horrors. If they chose to keep playing the zero sum game , unionism and nationalism are left with a choice, whether to stick to core identities in the hope of somehow toughing it out, or wooing the other side with concessions to win a new margin for victory. They could of course abandon the game but the contours of a new game are far from clear. For that they’ll need greater support from the metropolitan powers than warm words and an invitation to dinner.

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  6. Comment on Whatever you do, don’t mention the war dead…
    on 10 April 2014 at 9:06 pm

    Note that Mary wrote in full of her late husband Sir Geoffrey, Leeds born, fellow philosopher and former vice chancellor of Oxford University but nevertheless ….

    “Though people sometimes talk as if the Troubles began in the 1970s, this is far from true. They were centuries old; and the Irish have extraordinarily long memories. (I did not live for nearly 50 years with an atheist but fanatically Protestant Ulsterman without becoming aware of this.) (I did not live for nearly 50 years with an atheist but fanatically Protestant Ulsterman without becoming aware of this.)

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  7. Comment on The 11 new district councils – projecting the 2011 votes
    on 6 April 2014 at 11:08 pm

    Formidable piece of work Nicholas by you and others. It puts the so-called mainstream media to shame – and free at the point of use!

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  8. Comment on Sinn Fein rise 5% in Red C sets them up for a surge in southern Local Elections…
    on 30 March 2014 at 5:45 pm

    It’s worth looking at Adrian Kavanagh’s analysis including projections for the next Dail in the forum for the Political Studies of Ireland website. Presumably voting in local elections is more of a protest vote in the Republic as in England. But there is little comfort for Fine Gael , a stalled recovery for Fianna Fail, near decimation for Labour, and Sinn Fein apparently profiting all round. Quite an amazing stack of Others though. Would they gravitate to the main parties at the election?

    “My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fianna Fail 36, Fine Gael 49, Sinn Fein 33, Labour 8, Independents, Green Party and Others 32.

    Using a D’Hondt method ..
    FF 36 FG 53 LB 4 SF 36 GP 1 OTH 28
    Based on these seat estimates, a Fine Gael-Labour (combined seat level of 57 seats) would fall well short of the number of seats required to form a government (79 seats); while a potential Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein alliance (combined seat level of 69 seats) would come somewhat closer to this 79 seat target. To have a sufficient number of seats required to command a majority in Dail Eireann (79 seats in a 158 seat Dail, assuming a deputy from another party/grouping takes on the Ceann Comhairle role), a Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein (or Fine Gael-Labour) alliance would need the support of at least ten (twenty two) or more, TDs from the independent ranks or from another political grouping to be able to form a government. A Fine Gael and Sinn Fein pairing would have more than a sufficient number of seats (combined seat level of 82 seats) to command a majority in Dail Eireann, but such an alliance looks to be unlikely in the present political climate.

    Ultimately, based on these numbers a Fianna Fail-Fine Gael coalition government would be the only viable two-party coalition and such an alliance would command a very strong Dail majority (with a combined seat level of 85 seats).

    The reason why such two-party coalitions would appear to be difficult prospects could of course be attributed to yet another very strong showing (in support and seat estimates terms) for the different groupings associated with the Independent and Others grouping.

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  9. Comment on Seems like no one has been ‘minding’ the Guards for years…
    on 27 March 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Ah, some of yez have short memories ( or maybe no memories at all). They don’t make them like Two Guns Joe Ainsworth no more. And how can you compare Alan shatter to Sean Doherty with his Merc overturned in the ditch?

    Mr Ainsworth, fair play to him, defended himself in the Irish Times (£) in October 2012

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