“We’re not in May, you know, we’re just into May.”

The quote is from Alex Maskey in last night’s Spotlight discussion on the devolution of policing and justice. He’s referencing those “very firm” British government commitments again. And the ‘unacceptability’ of it all to his party.. If, like Mark Carruthers, you’re still confused about target dates and deadlines here’s a recent post on where we’re at. The clip is unfortunately truncated but the parties’ various positions are made. See the iPlayer for the full programme. Pete Baker

“transferring non-core services to the private sector..”

Northern Ireland’s current Finance Minister, and expected next First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, asked Gordon Brown about the second Varney Review [of competitiveness], to follow his previous review of taxation, during Prime Minister’s Questions today and called for the UK government’s response in time for the upcoming US investment conference. As RTÉ reports that review has been published. NI Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has welcomed the “roadmap to prosperity” and the review itself is available here. PDF file … Read more

Smiles v Frowns

While chuckling hasn’t seemed to have proved too popular here, Magnus Linklater argues Alex Slamond’s cheeky grin has helped overcome a lack of SNP delivery on election promises and highly limited legislative programme and for all Brown’s seriousness it is doing him no favours. However, can it continue to work in the longer-term? Lee Reynolds

“If he had led a successful referendum campaign..”

Hmm.. Not necessarily his “last day in the political sun”, Mick. Irish Eagle spotted the Bloomberg news service coverage of the out-going Taoiseach’s speech. His speech, before a joint session of Congress at 11 a.m. in Washington, “may be a pitch for a future international role, whether on behalf of the European Union or otherwise,” said Noel Whelan, a former adviser to Ahern’s Fianna Fail party. “Bertie Ahern certainly has the mix of skills that might play in conflict resolution.” … Read more

Ken relying on a wing, a prayer and a shedload of elastic bands…

Ken Livingstone, one time favourite for the London mayorality now looks to be in serious trouble on the eve of poll, depending of course on which opinion poll you put your faith in. As Oliver Kamm notes, he has always been favoured with an opponent who has made some strategically disastrous mistake. In Boris Johnson, it seems his luck may just be in the process of running out. Nevertheless, two polls give him a narrow lead over the mop haired … Read more

Bertie to speak in Congress today…

Bertie gets his last day in the political sun today. You can pick up his speech to the US Congress on line here. Expect mention of his role in bringing constitutional matters to a close in Northern Ireland. And possibly for Hillary ‘instrumental’ role in bringing peace to us natives? Of course, the opening scenes began on the Clinton watch. But the Bush adminstration played a more discreet, but possibly decisive role in bring final closure. Mick FealtyMick is founding … Read more

“It puts Northern Ireland on a par with the rest of the UK.”

The Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Minister Paul Goggins, MP, will introduce the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008, noted previously here, in the House of Commons today. There was a consultation with the Assembly, but some Assembly members are not happy. From the NIO statement. “The Order sets out the parameters of acceptable sexual activity in the 21st century and clearly states what the law will not tolerate. “I am convinced that the changes will offer the people of Northern … Read more

No confidence?

An Irish News poll shows two-thirds of school principals do not have confidence in SF Education Minister, Catriona Ruane (with a significant split in opinions between sectors – 48.9% in the CCMS sector and 84.2% in the State sector). The lack of information was a significant concern across the sectors with around three quarters of all school principals strongly disagreeing with the statement that they had received enough information. Full story here (subs reqd) ADDED: With the DUP about to … Read more

“A rights-based approach..”

Here’s Stormont Live’s coverage of the launch of the Strategic Review of Parading in Northern Irleand’s interim report yesterday. There are other reactions and reports here. Pete Baker

“current and former members of the IRA..”

The Independent Monitoring Commission’s 18th report is with the UK and Irish governments and is due to be published tomorrow. The Irish Times reports [subs req] that they are “expected to publicly state that the IRA leadership did not sanction the murder of Paul Quinn from Cullyhanna in south Armagh last October.” There’s a short report here. The reports also note that The IMC, however, will state that current and former members of the IRA from the south Armagh area … Read more

A game of two tribes…

A bit of tit for tat tribalism in Scottish football: Celtic’s ‘holy goalie’ exposed a “God Bless the Pope” T-shirt complete with a picture of the late Pope John Paul II at a recent Old Firm game, while the Sunday Herald has issued a full page apology after a columnist wrote that some Celtic ‘fans would probably rather have a bead-rattling Hoopy the Huddle Hound in the dug-out.’ Arguably, the T-shirt wasn’t as offensive as the written jibe was, in … Read more

Inaction on pollution: a rod to beat anglers with…

ANGLING seems to be one of Northern Ireland’s quiet success stories, with the Leisure Minister telling us the other day that it is worth more than £22m to the local economy (and the Deputy First Minister being a keen participant). Despite this, the authorities seem to have little interest in taking on the polluters responsible for the countless fishkills here, like this one reported yesterday. Perhaps it’s embarrassment stopping them, as the upprosecutable Water Service was NI’s worst polluter, up … Read more

Reasons to vote against Lisbon…

Earlier today I spoke to Naoise Nunn, once (and possibly again) of this parish. These days he’s executive director of Libertas, a think tank and pressure group that seems to be successfully applying some attention to the issue of the Lisbon referendum due to take place on June 12th. He’s been travelling recently in the north and west of the Republic and reports that they are getting positive responses from people who whilst happy with the EU and the benefits … Read more

Make that a double fudge..

According to the BBC’s anonymous sources It is understood an amendment has been agreed which would give ministers power to appoint a chief commissioner, if desired, at a later date. I doubt that’s sufficient to be described as ‘near resolution’ – the commission’s decision making process isn’t mentioned for a start. But May 6th is being reported as the likely date for the legislation to return appear at the Assembly. Pete Baker

“the council will have a purely administrative role..”

I had asked, when noting the advance notice of the Strategic Review of Parading in Northern Ireland report, who will decide whether a parade [all public assemblies of 15 people or more – Ed] is to be considered “contentious”? If this BBC report is accurate, it would appear that no-one will. Where possible, any objections will be dealt with by direct contact between the organisers and the objectors. If this is not possible and objections remain unresolved, the local council … Read more

“Police are continuing to liaise with community leaders..”

As several reports point out, there have been confrontations in east Belfast between rival groups on consecutive nights. On both ocassions those ubiquitous community representatives, or “community leaders” according to the RTÉ report, intervened. Would they be the same community leaders referred to here? Or the ones pictured here? Still, it’s just about maintaining a sense of law and order in their communities.. Pete Baker

Spend in haste, repent at leisure centre…

NOT to get on Caitriona’s case too much, but does no-one in the Education Department see that there could be a connection between cuts here and consequences here – if not immediately, then further down the line? It may be belt-tightening time, but could funding after-schools clubs perhaps save the taxpayer money in the long term? And speaking of cuts, the penny may finally be dropping in Belfast City Council that it simply cannot continue to pour our rates into … Read more

I am in blood stepped in so far

I am in blood Stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er. (Macbeth III iv) Before Dundela Avenue’s finest start, it is rather unfair to compare their new leader with Macbeth. He may have helped in the slaying of his leader to accede to the throne but I do not think Iris is Lady Macbeth (though I always imagine Lady Macbeth with red hair). However, Macbeth is often suggested as a … Read more

Raymond McCord to set up victims group

Raymond McCord senior has announced that he is setting up a victims group along with other relatives including the aunt of Gerard Devlin (murdered in 2006) and Paul McIlwaine whose son David was murdered in 2000. From the BBC report: Mr McCord said the Victims Commission set up by the assembly was a “sham” and a new cross-community group would be established this week. “We are going to set up our own victims’ group.” “We will help people the way … Read more

UDA facing a problem

Brian Rowan has an article in the Belfast Telegraph today discussing the IMC, the IRA Army Council and the UDA.I have recently mentioned the IRA army council and there is no need to spend vast amounts of time on it, save to mention Rowan’s comment that “time has passed since the Northern Bank robbery and other IRA linked actions.” This is interesting and seems to imply that there is some form of ultra short statute of limitations on terrorist activities. … Read more