Leaning on little Ireland

Any truth in the FoI inspired report that the US and UK are leaning on Ireland to tighten up the 12.5% corporation tax regime? Pity, if it hit NI hopes of winning a slice of Tiger action at last. The UK has long been fearful of a mass exodus of multinationals to Ireland. Two more big ones went west last week. It was the last straw after they heard that our tough talkin’ Chancellor will after all refuse to abandon … Read more

Where are the centre parties?

A wonderful opportunity for the centre ground in NI politics is going a-begging. Why can’t the so-called parties of the centre see it? What the SDLP, the Ulster Unionists and the Alliance party ought to do together or in any combination is to say now: the extremist parties the DUP and Sinn Fein are too far apart to hack it. We always told you so. Here are our ideas for sorting out P&J, Irish Language act, the stadium etc. You … Read more

Some weekend viewing [and listening]

The Observer Review rounds-up 50 cultural highlights and curiosities available on YouTube. And if Film by Samuel Beckett, directed by Alan Schneider and starring silent movie legend Buster Keaton, isn’t to your taste [part 2 here and the final part], try some of the others – Dinah&Ella, or Aretha Franklin, maybe Martin Scorsese on Mean Streets or, perhaps, William Burroughs.. Or even Vladimir Nabokov on Lolita. There’s much more in the collected links to spend a Sunday afternoon watching. Enjoy. … Read more

“I’m not sure we’ve seen anything like it..”

Whilst we had some weather the other week, New Orleans is being evacuated for the second time in three years as the now category 4 3 Hurricane Gustav heads for landfall. The US blogs Mick noted in 2005 are probably worth checking again for coverage. As is the local New Orleans media where they’re blogging the detail. More coverage here. Update From Brendan Loy Gustav is, in fact, weakening. The Hurricane Center’s 115 mph estimate is, as they say, “generous,” … Read more

Deepcut deaths still haunt the MoD

The MP Kevin Macnamara now retired, who legend has it was once described by Jim Callaghan as “ the Fianna Fail MP for Hull north” used to come up to me from time and time and ask “ what are you doing about Deepcut?” “Er, nothing just now, “ I would reply, not really my beat, that sort of thing and maybe I thought – unworthily as I now believe – Kevin was just a bit too keen to find … Read more

Effective Palin spoiler, but Obama still taking the steady money

Sorry for all the US stuff at the moment, but it is the big pol story of the moment, and I’m deliberately tracking it in detail for the Daily Telegraph over at Brassneck. The appointment/nomination of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate seems to have shaken things up nicely and caught the Democrats napping. But they have more than the not-much-better-than-evens in the polls to catch Obama on. They need to get some momentum going. Only next week’s Republican … Read more

It’s Malachi’s fault

“ Michael, Richard and Dan are the only newly ordained priests for Dublin’s million-plus Catholics”. Its not exactly news but it’s written up in the usual limpid McKittrick style of letting the story tell itself which requires far more skill than you might think. (Note the avoidance of redundant value judgments.) It sounds as if another journalist for whom value judgments are meat and drink, Malachi O’Doherty, is partly to blame for a revival of this touchy subject, as his … Read more

Faith schools on the rise again

From Monday, faith schools in England will be able to adopt religious belief as a criterion for appointing teachers. The move crystallises exactly two urgent and increasingly controversial debates in England. One, is multiculturalism or integration the goal for society? Two, will a new range of Blairite “specialist” schools including faith schools produce selection by the back door, or will they genuinely improve standards and widen choice? New freedoms for specialist schools reverses a trend set by Brown who had … Read more

Move over Darling?

His words can make stock markets quake. They pushed house prices down further when he failed to quash rumours of a cut in stamp duty. Yet here is that flinty character Alistair Darling confessing all to one of the most winsome women in the interviewing business, Decca Aitkenhead of the Guardian. Confesses the Chancellor: “We knew the economy was going to slow down.” But he hadn’t the faintest inkling of the financial crisis about to unfold before him? “No, no … Read more

Update on Robinson upping the ante

It’s wonderful how a little detail can scale down a story as a day develops…UTV and The BBC’s Mark Devenport report that changes to the “massive” strategy development document Conor Murphy failed to bring back to the Executive for clearance amounted to around “150 changes, many involve references to “Northern Ireland” being changed to “the north”.” Are you being serious, First Minister? The air is going out of this story’s balloon. Sinn Fein ministers may well have a case to … Read more

“If he (Obama) wins, the operative word is detachment..”

Gonzo gave his immediate reaction to Barack Obama’s speech late last night but it’s also worth reading Micky Kaus’ suitably sceptical take at Slate “A little flat, and not just because of it’s now-required State-of-the Union laundry-list passages” Meanwhile Máirtín points to an Irish Echo report from a couple of days ago on the reaction by some to Obama’s suggestion that a US envoy to Northern Ireland was no longer required – as previously noted by Brian. “I’m Shocked, I … Read more

Northern Ireland health service comes in second

Northern Ireland comes second among the four parts of the UK in the amount spent per patient, according to a breakdown just published by the respected Health Service Journal. “Huge contrasts found between UK nations. Patients in the UK’s four nations have dramatically different experiences of the NHS.” Scotland came highest in spending per patient at £1262, compared to NI at £1214, Wales at £1186 and England £1,086. NI has the second highest ratio of GPs per 1.000 patients, 0.63 … Read more

DCC give the atheists to the Prods

It appears it is not easy to find a grave for an atheist in Donegal. There is no municipal graveyard and Roy Greenslade had been informed that a religious service would be required to use the various church graveyards (although this advice may have been mistaken). So instead his atheist mother’s remains were brought across the border and buried in Londonderry. Derry City Council has different designated areas for different religions within its graveyards but none for atheists, when asked … Read more

Robinson ups the ante

Breaking news… The Belfast Telegraph is selling hard the story of deepening crisis in the Executive, although as I type, nobody else seems to have picked up this latest twist. Peter Robinson’s charge is constitutionally a serious one, that the Regional Development minister SF’s Conor Murphy breached the code of office by failing to bring a ” massive” regional strategy to 2025 before an Executive meeting. “Mr Robinson said he wanted an immediate Executive meeting to deal with the issue … Read more

“This is not worth the paper it’s written on..”

The BBC’s Mark Devenport had suggested the IMC could play a part of the “serious consequences” predicted by Northern Ireland First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, if the Executive continued to fail to meet. Whether today’s reported meeting between the DUP and the IMC is more than a sounding of next week’s IMC report isn’t yet clear. But it comes at a time when the NI First Minster has accused the Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, of breaching … Read more

Cut rates as recession gloom deepens, Bank man demands

Have you ever heard of Blanchflower ? You have now. To most of us, the name conjures up fond memories of two great Belfast footballing brothers of the 1950s and 60s. But now there’s a new Blanchflower – David. (no relation as far as I know). David Blanchflower moves into history as the first member of the Bank of England monetary policy committee (MPC) to break ranks and give a stark warning of deep recession – in public. You aint … Read more

The speech of Obama’s life…

WELL, dunno about you but I’ve just watched Obama give what was billed as the speech of his lifetime. And what a show it was from a gifted orator. Was it enough to make him the next US president? I think that’s another matter, but tonight was a night in which Obama set out his stall – not in any great detail, but with an appeal for change and a vision for the future that will attract many undecided Americans. … Read more

What did Iris say?

Three cheers for that bureaucratic pain, but first defence of human rights section 75 for taking Gay Rights to the top– even creating a ruffle in the Robinson household perhaps? And two cheers for the Belfast Telegraph for digging out the story under FoI ( great headline guys, you kept it simple). And to Pink News for, well, celebrating the news. “First Minister to authorise grants despite wife’s outspoken comments 80,000 to gay groups within the next seven months — … Read more

After the ‘kerfuffle’..

After the “kerfuffle” – the threats, the clarification, and the rebuttal – apparently the DUP and Sinn Féin are to hold talks next week. As the Belfast Telegraph report tells us The DUP today said it was waiting confirmation of talks with Sinn Fein for next week to tackle the impasse threatening the future of devolution. Sinn Fein has also organised a series of internal consultations, including a meeting of its 27 Assembly members also next week. Well we’re certainly … Read more