Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Profile for Mainland Ulsterman

Born in Belfast, 1969. Worked in qualitative market and social research for 15 years and was until recently a research director at a leading UK research agency. Now working freelance. Formerly qualified and worked as a lawyer for several years in the 90s, having done a degree in Jurisprudence at Oxford University. Married and living in the UK, with two children.

Latest posts from Mainland Ulsterman (see all)

Mainland Ulsterman has posted 1 times (0 in the last month).

Understanding Bloody Sunday: Is it time to teach CAIN?

Mon 14 June 2010, 12:13pm

Tweet The debates around the forthcoming publication of the Saville findings raise an old complaint: that focusing on individual incidents in the Troubles distorts our overall understanding of what happened. Is it time we all got a bit more statistically literate – what about making the study of the CAIN stats compulsory in schools? Debates […] more »

Latest comments from Mainland Ulsterman (see all)

Mainland Ulsterman has commented 725 times (4 in the last month).

  1. Comment on Hunger Strike: Margaret Thatcher’s Battle With the IRA (1980-1981)
    on 4 April 2014 at 3:45 pm

    I’ve just finished reading the Patterson book about security “co-operation”, “Ireland’s Violent Frontier’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and am also a bit puzzled by the comment that Mountbatten and Warrenpoint brought about a major change in approach. Oldfield conducted a security review, yes, but its recommendation that co-operation with the Garda should be developed and improved was described by Patterson as “wearily familiar” by that point, after years of half-arsed (my word) efforts from the Republic, mainly due to successive governments in the Republic playing to sectarian anti-British public opinion in their state.

    What the reviews did produce, says Patterson, was an increased focus on intra-NI counter-terrorist strategy, given the obvious failures on the other side of the border. But Warrenpoint et al was nothing new, just dramatic examples of the long-established pattern.

    Army / police friction remained though after this. Part of this was because Republic’s government would not let the Garda liaise with the Army on border security, insisting on them only talking to the RUC. So where the Army was patrolling in an area, they had to get messages 2nd hand from the RUC, which was absurdly impractical and cost many lives. The RUC did take up the Irish offer of better police co-ordination and sought to protect this relationship with the Garda – which caused tensions with a frustrated Army that was providing most of the security but was left out of the loop with the Irish.

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  2. Comment on Haass knew nothing of Sinn Fein’s OTR side-deal before he tried ‘dealing with the past’
    on 3 April 2014 at 11:30 am

    You should ask Haass; and the Minister of Justice. Or rather you won’t need to because luckily Parliament is asking the questions in some detail now.

    Morpheus lists various parties that were supposed to have known. Yet we’ve now seen the minutes of the Police Board which were supposed to revealed this and it’s clear no such disclosure happened.

    So good luck with the ongoing attempt to brush this one under the carpet and discredit the whistleblowers. Going well.

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  3. Comment on “there was a ‘culture’ in the Northern Ireland Office not to prosecute Republicans…”
    on 3 April 2014 at 11:11 am

    Norman Baxter’s claims that “Downing St” called the Chief Constable asking for terrorist suspects to be released is of course shocking – and hopefully the official(s) responsible will be identified and prosecuted for what is a very serious crime. That it happened in Downing St of course begs several other questions, which were in any case in the air over this OTR scandal:
    - how much did the senior government politicians know about OTRs – the SoS, Home Secretary, Minister for Justice, PM etc? Which of them if any were party to what seems to have been misleading Parliament and deceiving the people’s elected representatives?
    - was there indeed a wider hidden side to the peace process beyond the OTRs deal, in which other concessions were given to SF-IRA over and above what the electorate was told?

    What this pays bear, among other things, is the squandering of the Good Friday Agreement legacy. The people who voted for it have been let down badly. We’d already got the peace deal from the terrorists in 1998 – it involved some appeasement but people like me swallowed it on the basis of this being a final deal. We then watched SF being cut concession after concession by the government, as if it was the only constituency that needed to be catered for: yes, you can have longer to actually give up the terrorism you already said you had given up in the 90s, yes we’ll overlook that massive bank robbery, beating a guy to death in a pub etc etc. It seems the government got drawn into the parallel moral universe in which SF-IRA and their supporters live.

    Their bizarre requests to have *their* terrorists let off (but no one else of course – that’s the even-handed Irish Republican tradition for you) should have been just laughed off.

    I can see why they were taken seriously. Because Republicans were the main cause of the Troubles, and their ceasefires effectively ended the Troubles, it is understandable that the process to secure the end to terrorism focussed so strongly on Sinn Fein (whose leaders of course were also leaders of the IRA). But clearly in doing so, the government lost its bearings pretty soon after the 1998 vote got through. It started to believe that anything it took to quieten down Republicans was justified, “brave” and was “taking risks for peace”. In reality, the government’s approach was lazy, weak, unfair and lacked long term vision.

    They seemed to think quiet concessions to SF would secure the peace. And a terror-weary organisation that had had enough was given a way to end its campaign without looking to its supporters like it was defeated – fair enough to allow this useful illusion. What they gave less thought to, though, was the impact on NI society of boosting the most deeply hated party in the Province, one responsible for the vast programme of organised murders of Northern Irish people over 30 years from which NI society was now seeking to recover.

    By conceding again and again to SF, both publicly and now we discover in secret too, they undermined the Good Friday Agreement, They let down all those people who suffered SF’s reign of terror and had hoped for something more in the new era than just a lack of violence.

    But of course, none of this would have been an issue if people hadn’t voted SF. That’s where this corrupt organisation get their power from. Dirty deals with SF would not have happened if voters had given them the short shrift that their Loyalist equivalents have received at the ballot box. It beggars belief that someone would go so far as to actually vote for people like that. But by playing to the extremes, the government has played a part in feeding the monster.

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  4. Comment on “there was a ‘culture’ in the Northern Ireland Office not to prosecute Republicans…”
    on 3 April 2014 at 9:37 am

    … the others including most vocally and influentially (given his prominence as a supposed honest broker in the “dealing with the past” issue) Denis Bradley: His reputation has certainly taken a hit over what I hope was only a lapse of memory on his part. Did Bradley know about the OTR deal? Whether he did or not, why has he been so keen to scotch the public outrage about it now that it has come to light? Very odd.

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  5. Comment on Haass knew nothing of Sinn Fein’s OTR side-deal before he tried ‘dealing with the past’
    on 15 March 2014 at 2:32 pm

    If, as it seems, Haass didn’t know about the secret OTRs scheme, this certainly begs serious questions of the government. As RB says, they were sitting on this all the time while the parties (apart from the dishonest SF) and Haass were negotiating in good faith, unaware the government had already stitched up one of the issues secretly with one party.

    They have made a mockery of the Haass talks and undermined confidence severely in the political process. Nice one, Hain, Powell, Villiers et al – top contribution to NI community relations there.

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  6. Comment on Tony Benn and his lifelong argument for democracy… RIP
    on 15 March 2014 at 2:19 pm

    There is a long history of intellectuals ruminating their way to justifying the most horrific cruelty against ordinary people. The pipe smoke obscured a heart of stone towards the people of Northern Ireland when we were enduring the IRA terror. There was something missing with Tony Benn. An intellectual who put ideology (and a half-arsed one at that) ahead of humanity when it came to Northern Ireland. Sorry to say it in the wake of his death, but it’s the truth – he let himself and Northern Ireland down very badly and we never had an hint of an apology.

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  7. Comment on Tony Benn and his lifelong argument for democracy… RIP
    on 14 March 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Is it “a one party gerrymandered sectarian state brought into being at the point of a gun” or one that exists with the consent of all the main parties here, votes north and south of the border, the agreement of the Irish and British governments and the entire international community?

    Even Sinn Fein now accept that “the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union … it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people.”

    Which leaves you a more extreme Irish Republican than the IRA. Which is some achievement.

    But important that voices from the margins are still heard. Good luck with that united Ireland thing, going well.

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  8. Comment on Jimmy Ellis RIP
    on 14 March 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Great actor – one of the few NI faces and voices in tv drama in the 70s and 80s.

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  9. Comment on Tony Benn and his lifelong argument for democracy… RIP
    on 14 March 2014 at 1:36 pm

    He certainly did and he looked a naive tit for doing so.

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  10. Comment on Haass knew nothing of Sinn Fein’s OTR side-deal before he tried ‘dealing with the past’
    on 14 March 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Is this a new form of immunity we didn’t know about? If it’s “dealing with events stemming from abnormal critical circumstances, outside a normal civil justiciable environment”, we should let it go. That is the same as saying, any side deal with the IRA is by definition OK. Which it clearly isn’t.
    And do you apply to that to the Finucane murder, as a matter of interest? Or is that “justiciable”?

    The bigger problem with your approach is that it gives the government carte blanche to do whatever secret deals it likes, citing only: “Um, it’s the um peace process, and that.” Last time I looked, it was felt to be important that the peace process had *public* support, which kind of requires the public to be told what it actually is. The problem for you is, the public voted for something in 1998 that did not involve OTRs; and while elected officials *could* have done a deal on OTRs subsequently on the public’s behalf, THEY DIDN’T, after considering the issue in detail in parliament.

    As far as the public – and indeed parliament – was concerned, there was no authorised deal. In administrative law terms, the SoS acted ultra vires; not only that, it seems parliament and the British people were then mislead on multiple occasions. Hence we’re talking about the possibility of resignations here. This is no small thing.

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