“any future arrangements would require to leave open the option of academic selection..”

In the Belfast Telegraph, Chris Thornton picks up on the nuance in a written answer from the Northern Ireland Finance Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, to a question from the UUP’s Basil McCrea as education heads into the void on the back of the Northern Ireland Education minister’s ‘vision’. “The new Statutory Ministerial Code as approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly on 20th March requires the Executive to agree a way forward on such matters in order for decisions to … Read more

“So talking to the Taliban is nothing new..”

Interesting report in the Observer today, where Henry McDonald has been talking to Chris Hudson, who is described as having “played a pivotal role in the Ulster Volunteer Force ceasefire and set up a secret link between the loyalists and the Irish government” [Other than Martin McAleese? – Ed]. Hudson claims that his friend and former Oxfam colleague, Michael Semple, now deputy head of the aid programme for Afghanistan run by the Council of the European Union, and who has … Read more

Paisley and the DUP – past, present and future

Since its foundation and most of its history, Paisley was the DUP and at times serious doubts if it could continue in his absence. The gains and growth of the DUP in the last decade have banished any doubts. During that period of expansion Paisley was seen as a help and hindrance to its growth, the foundation stone on which the party was built however a millstone around its neck when trying to attract significant sections of UUP voters. It … Read more

2008: a year to vindicate St Andrews…

Gregory Campbell reckons the Executive has got this next year to prove the St Andrews Agreement is a significant step forward. It’s significant most for its departure from the usual upbeat tone of party colleagues rather than in content. It undoubtedly reflects some of the unease that party activist are feeling at the sight of Ulster’s new comedy duo, the Chuckle Brothers. But he also raises serious concerns around public order. Not least he is looking for a tangible policy … Read more

Support for monarchy steady

Despite the anti-monarchist sentiment expressed in barrel loads here, support for the British Monarchy remains high. The 80% support for the Monarchy now, and 70% when Charles becomes King is about the same as in this poll more than 18 months ago. Michael ShillidayI used to write and get paid, now I read and don’t. Former UUP staffer, currently living in London. @mjshilliday

“It is for the parties to decide when the time is right..”

With all the coverage of the New Year message from the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, MP, it’s worth pointing to the one key line on devolving policing and justice powers to the Assembly – full statement here “It is for the parties to decide when the time is right, but the Government will be ready to make the transfer of powers next May as envisaged in the St Andrews Agreement.” [added emphasis] It is something he has … Read more

“In the unlikely event of an impact..”

When I noted the asteroid 2007 WD5 previously the impact probability with Mars was a 1 in 75 chance, described by NASA astronomer Steve Chesley as “a very high impact probability for what we’re used to dealing with”. Yesterday NASA reported that the discovery of more data on the asteroid’s orbit has allowed them to refine the orbit and the uncertainties. It’s still more likely to miss than to hit, but the chances have gone up to 1 in 25 … Read more

PR tail is wagging the institutional dog…

Newton Emerson notes that the art of PR as practised by some ex hacks is not condusive to growing trust in a number of institutions where the earning of public trust is crucial to both short and long term success. He singles out the PSNI press office for seriously overstepping the bounds of their remit: The PSNI press office is full of people who know how to trip journalists up with sneaky tricks such as sabotaging interviews or deliberately dragging … Read more

New Years honours

Seems a couple of days early, but the honours list is out. Top of the Northern Ireland list is head of the Civil Service, as he is now Sir Nigel Hamilton. Next is Dame Nuala O’Loan followed by Elieen Bell and Evelyn Collins CBE. Duncan McCausland gets an OBE and UUP MLA Fred Cobain gets an MBE along with Larne DUP Councillor Rachel Rea, boxer Gerry Storey and Portadown boss Ronnie McFall. Northern Ireland seems to have done rather well, … Read more

“but 50 files remain closed..”

Of particular interest among the official documents released under the 30 year rule – now under review in the UK – are those discussing the 1977 strike by the United Unionist Action Council (UUAC), led by Rev Ian Paisley and supported by the UDA and Ulster Workers Council. As historian Eamon Phoenix writes here, those discussions include a minuted reference to the now First Minister, who it was noted “was associated with and had the support of the Protestant paramilitaries … Read more

Sinn Fein, their faltering game and one big European chance for glory…

Catriona Ruane probably has the stiffest test of all Sinn Fein’s new ministers. For that reason, I’m not sure that Frank’s analysis suggesting she’s performed poorly alongside her colleagues Conor Murphy and Michelle Gildernew, even if that was the impression given by northern delegates at a recent ‘closed door’ meeting in Dublin. Neither have faced the challenge she does in carrying forward actionable reforms in an area that is both prominent and which splits neatly down the Nationalist /Unionist divide. … Read more

Bertie draws the border back in…

Last time I was stopped at the border would have been by a single Garda around 1990, probably after a major attack somewhere in Northern Ireland. He was stopping most cars just before the Carrickdale hotel creating a tailback that went right back across the actual boarder. When we eventually got up to him he engaged my Derby born English colleague in a long conversation about the mixed fortunes of Derby County (the Guard’s favourite team), and after a decent … Read more

A united archipelago..

With the number of countries implementing the Schengen agreement now increased to 24, the Irish Times tries, once again, to start a reasoned debate on whether the Republic of Ireland should also join. From Monday’s editorial [subs req] “On the map of the Schengen area Ireland and Britain are conspicuous absentees on the west of the continent, along with the main Balkan states, Turkey, Ukraine, Byelorussia, Moldova and Russia to the east. New lines are being drawn. Asked recently whether … Read more

Now he does do God…

FORMER prime minister Tony Blair has finally, but not unexpectedly, converted to his Donegal mother’s Catholicism. Blair, whose faith in God once found him exhanging religious literature with Ian Paisley, famously downplayed it publicly while in office, despite there having never been a Catholic PM in the UK. Many of the stories reporting the news claim the sensitive nature of the peace talks here may have played a role in delaying what many saw as inevitable. Fellow convert Anne Widdecombe … Read more

“it would be a very interesting and exciting scientific bonanza..”

Near Earth Objects, such as the Geminids’ 3200 Phaethon, don’t just pose a potential risk to Earth. One NEO, 2007 WD5, was only identified on 20 November this year and, having been eliminated as a potential threat to Earth, is now heading towards Mars – ETA 30 January 2008. Interactive 3D orbit diagram here [Java req]. NASA astronomers calculate that the chance of a collision with Mars, by the approximately 50m wide asteroid, is currently 1 in 75, although there … Read more

A total disrespect for the families in that courtroom…

Victor Barker’s remarks on the behaviour of Sean Hoey’s supporters in the courtroom on Thursday. Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

“He rang our house and was looking to speak to me..”

After meeting with the Republic of Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, and then with Justice Minister, Brian Lenihan, and briefly with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and apparently securing some movement from their earlier statements, the parents of Paul Quinn met today with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, and they emerged to claim that the British government also shared the view that Paul Quinn was not a criminal. But, as Mark Devenport notes, the reports also revealed … Read more

“the only way we will see a successful prosecution in a criminal court..”

He may have been reading Mark Devenport’s blog, or perhaps Mick’s Comment is Free post, but Chief Constable Hugh Orde commented today on yesterday’s judgement by Mr Justice Weir and, after referring to the original investigation by the RUC as an “imperfect product”, he also made a point about the prosecution’s reliance on forensic evidence alone. [Hugh Orde] said: “People out there know who did this. There is a lot of intelligence but intelligence is not evidence. In my judgment, … Read more

First Minister wants Westminster to take the strain on gender issues…

The deadline for the Gender Goods and Services Directive was today, but there’s no sign of it as Stormont closed its doors this afternoon. Despite the fact that it is a devolved issue, but it looks like the First Minister has got cold feet on dealing with it directly. He’s been asking if Wesminster can deal with it through orders in council. Slugger hears the FM’s faint heartedness led t a rather stormy session of the FMDFM Committee on Wednesday … Read more

A cold draught?

Shaun Woodward, the NI Secretary of State has declined to give public support to Sir Ronnie Flanagan after the damning critique in yesterday’s judgement on the Omagh bomb case. He said: “The lessons to be learned from this judgement are far and wide. It is important that we look at this very, very carefully. It wouldn’t do any kind of justice to the 29 people who were murdered in the bomb and the two unborn children for me to give … Read more