To infinity and beyond..

The Phoenix lander on Mars might have found the ice it was looking for [new link here]. Meanwhile problems with the plumbing on the International Space Station have meant a last minute addition to the Space Shuttle Discovery’s payload on mission STS-124 – there’s a stow-away too.. Lift-off expected at 10.02pm tonight [BST], launch blog here, and NASA TV will broadcast the launch live. Adds STS-124, Discovery launch video from ReelNASA And Almost a compare and contrast below the fold. … Read more

Calling for talks with al-Qaida is the easy bit…

PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde has become the latest public figure to call for talks with al-Qaida. But as I work my way through another book about the group, I’m left wondering how this would be done. The name ‘al-Qaida’ seems to me to be largely a Western construction for a range of militant Islamist ideology that is pretty amorphous, diverse and with differing aims, and bin Laden is probably not as central to it as we like to think, … Read more

SF threat smacks of desperation…

WHEN a colleague asked me the other week why Martin McGuinness would have to be nominated alongside Peter Robinson when the new DUP leader becomes First Minister, I replied that as the FM and Deputy positions were joint positions (in that one can’t exist without the other), for the Sinn Fein politician, election as DFM would be a mere formality. Now someone in Sinn Fein is suggesting it may not. Personally, I think this is another hollow threat, an attempt … Read more

Oh dear, that wasn’t supposed to happen…

Enda’s been working the south of the island on the Lisbon treaty. Miriam Lord’s been trying to keep up with him: He cornered a mortified woman on her way out of a lingerie boutique. Speechless with embarrassment, she stood in front of the display of frilly knickers and bras while Enda told her earnestly why she should vote Yes. She nearly cried with relief when he left. But we couldn’t take our eyes off the notice behind Enda’s shoulder: “Body … Read more

“If it’s not broke, why fix it..”

Part one of the Hearts and Minds interview with the Environment Minister, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, is here, but the clip below begins with the key question of why we remain the only region of the archipelago not to have an independent Environmental Protection Agency despite the Review of Environmental Governance’s recommendation. The minister’s claim that she hasn’t rejected that report is based on her apparently cherry-picking some of its proposals. But when those proposals all followed on from the … Read more

Having fun and tackling racism in the border region

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] I attended a lovely event in Monaghan town this month. It was the last ‘showcase’ presentation of the Immigration Emigration Racism and Sectarianism (IERS) Schools Project, which is funded by the EU Peace Programme and managed by the Centre for Cross Border Studies. This project brought eight primary and four secondary … Read more

“He’s not going to do it..”

The out-going Northern Ireland First Minister, the DUP’s Ian Paisley Snr, gave a number of interviews at Stormont yesterday and the BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport has his conversation, about what Paisley Snr believes he has achieved, at his blog. However, the Belfast Telegraph’s David Gordon wasn’t welcome [Was it something he said? – Ed] as he explains here. The sessions were running late, but emerging TV political correspondents told us that Mr Paisley was in good form, relaxed … Read more

“As soon as I got clearance from the IRA…”

Interesting evidence being given at the trial of the men accused of murdering Robert McCartney, in which he accuses the IRA of managing the extent of who could or could not go to the police after Mr McCartney’s killing in January 2005: Ed Gowdy, 40, said he “can’t remember 90%” of what happened that evening. However he told the court that following the killing, IRA members called to his house on several occasions. He said: “as soon as I got … Read more

Paisley and Prospero

At the end of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero turns to the audience and says “Now my charms are all o’erthrown And what strength I have’s mine own.” Now at the end, it seems, of his political career (I believe he is going next Thursday, though I here his farewell bash is tomorrow, so I had better hurry to get my ticket) Dr. Paisley is lauded at the Boyne along with Ahern. Paisley has received numerous accolades since agreeing to enter … Read more

Musical chairs

Sir Reg Empey is hoping to attract Scottish University graduates to jobs in Northern Ireland and the Republic’s Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe is hoping to attract Northern Ireland teachers to the Republic. Lee Reynolds

“This is the reality of the situation..”

Sinn Féin refused to attend the announcement of an interim report by the Consultative Group on the Past in Belfast today – the full report is expected in the summer. The BBC report picks up on Co-Chairman Lord Eames’ comments, “We cannot ignore that, in fact, the state sometimes acted illegally. If we are to move out of the past in a healthy way then the state itself needs to acknowledge its full and complex role in the last 40 … Read more

The great blog rip off continues…

It’s worth getting a hold of the Power of the Commentariat report. It features a short section on the relationship between blogs and the mainstream media, which quotes an interview I gave earlier in the year on the always vexed issue of the protocols adopted by journalists when dealing with material sourced through blogs: “measuring the impact of blogs on the mainstream media is a real problem because journalists never acknowledge their source even when it is another media source. … Read more

Shane drops out of blogging at the IT…

Shane Hegarty, winner of the best blog by a journalist in this year’s Irish Blog Awards, is hanging up his blogging boots (for now anyway). I didn’t get to read the blog as often as I would have liked, but that is largely because as Shane puts it himself “I think that blogs are generally better if they’re focussed. This one was a bit loose, although – if done sparingly – there can be an attraction in the pick and … Read more

Wondrous Mars – redux

Via I thought the previous image was wondrous.. This one, of the Phoenix lander descending to Mars, is even better. And the European Space Agency has an audio recording from Mars Express. Btw “Phoenix is in perfect health.” Pete Baker

The problem with government conducting its own regulation…

David Gordon has some interesting addendum notes for Arlene Fosters’s decision to re-badge what some regard as the toothless tiger formerly known as the Environment and Heritage Service. Most of his remarks simply echo those of his colleague Sharon Turner yesterday. It may be no surprise that Foster effectively decided on no action until her party has a chance to get to the next election (2011) and shuffle itself out of this particular hotseat. Not only is her Special Advisor … Read more

Arms and the problem of academic selection…

Hearts and Minds was uncommonly good value last week. Newton Emerson picks up on a recent Interpol report confirming the veracity of three laptops seized after a late night bombing raid of a FARC camp two kilometres inside the Ecuadorian border. The contents are claimed by the Colombian government to show that the IRA was paid £28 million for ’14 terrorist training modules’. Then he asks just how the IRA matched individual rebels to which modules, without resorting to academic … Read more

“..some things aren’t fair”

Mark Steel wrote the following piece on the Raytheon 9 last week for the British Independent newspaper but their lawyers wouldn’t let it be printed. The evidence mounts that some things aren’t fair There’s a trial currently taking place in Belfast, that seems to explain plainly how nothing makes any sense. It revolves around a factory owned by the arms company Raytheon, which was set up in Derry soon after the IRA ceasefire. John Hume, who’d just won the Nobel … Read more

“as you well know..”

After months of claiming “very firm” British Government commitments, and alternatively a DUP commitment, to devolving policing and justice powers by May 2008, Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, finally gives a straight answer on that question. Not sure it meets the requirements of his own party’s Ard Fheis.. but better late than never, eh Jim? Key quote from his answer [scroll down] “However, agreement between the political parties (as you well know) remains the key determinant … Read more

Self righteous brothers and the ungentle art of creative futuring…

They can’t have been thinking of Slugger’s commenting zone, but it seems to me that this Enfield/Whitehouse sketch captures one of its little foibles reasonably well… 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

Foster ‘does a Ritchie’ as DUP love/hate quangos…

“I am opposed to the setting up of yet more quangos where unelected people take decisions on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland,” said our environment minister today, when she noted that the creation of an independent environmental protection agency would have estimated running costs of £600,000. This is in stark contrast to the creation of the unelected Victims Commission quango, which officially came into being today, is fully-backed by her own party, and which will fork out £260,000 … Read more