“The highlight of the week at Stormont”

On Stormont Live today Jim Fitzpatrick and Mark Devenport had some fun following yesterday’s publication of the Assembly’s Committee on Procedures report of the Inquiry into Assembly questions – summary of recommendations here. The report had been dishonourably leaked last week. And, if you’re puzzled by Jim’s reference to Stormont Live viewers, below the fold the deputy Chairman of the Committee on Procedures, the DUP’s Mervyn Storey, tells the NI Assembly why there will be no change to the schedule … Read more

“there’s only so much you can do, isn’t there?”

Two other Visteon car component factories are also to close in Basildon and Enfield in England, with 565 out 600 jobs lost, but the workers at the west Belfast factory are staging a sit-in protest after the US-based parent company announced that Visteon UK Ltd was entering into administration. And from the BBC report West Belfast MP Gerry Adams expressed his “deep disappointment”. “Sinn Féin has been liaising closely with the management of Visteon and with the local workforce. “Our … Read more

Darling needs to be less out of whack in Budget 2009

When Alistair Darling presented his first budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer in March 2008, the US mortgage markets were in meltdown and the credit markets barely functioning. But Darling remained confident that the United Kingdom was well-placed to “maintain stability” through the world economic slowdown. He bullishly predicted that the British economy would “continue to grow through this year and beyond”. The United Kingdom was the “most stable” economy in the G7, with growth expected to reach 2% in … Read more

“Recent events also demonstrate why the DUP was right..”

As the Irish Times notes, police remain on high alert following yesterday’s hijackings and security alerts – more details here. Meanwhile another Irish Times report notes the Northern Ireland First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson’s comments “One should not underestimate the value of the united community response to the dissident republican terrorists,” said Mr Robinson in Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone last night. “Indeed, the PSNI told me that information received from the republican community has played a crucial role in the … Read more

150 years of Irish Times available

For those interested in doing a spot of research or simply some historical browsing, the entire 150-year archive of the Irish Times is freely available at the moment. The offer ends April 6th, so enjoy it while you can. Feel free to post any gems you find. George

Westminster media in garage sale of MP’s secrets…

There is something of an anti democracy frenzy gripping the Westminster village at the moment, which I fully expect to end the moment the Tories take charge of number 10. A Tory friend tells me this is what happened to Major; but then the effects were not quite so destructive of the democratic since the fight is so narrowly drawn (down to the price of a bathplug for goodness sake), and the casualties are being carted out on either side … Read more

“At the start of Criminal Justice Week..”

One of the more frequently made arguments in favour of the rapid devolution of policing and justice powers is the apparent need for cross-departmental co-operation on certain matters. Interestingly, the NIO have just released a statement from the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Paul Goggins, MP, and the NI Environment Minster, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson. Government get tough on nuisance and uninsured vehicles as new police powers are introduced to tackle motoring offences and crackdown on crime. The Northern Ireland Office, … Read more

“It’s just get dug into the trench and refuse to move on anything.”

With the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education approving the use of academic selection by Catholic grammar schools, in the absence of a regulated system of post-primary transfer, the NI Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Cáitríona Ruane, was unusually keen to be first into the Stormont Live studio to point out that the Catholic Church still wanted to see an end to academic selection. As she’s, apparently, still ignoring the political reality that conversation is below the fold. Also on the … Read more

Jobs created in Antrim

Despite bad news today about job losses at Ulsterbus (Londonderry) and Nortel (Newtownabbey), several hundred jobs have been created at Asda. This appears to have been missed by the media but see here and below. South Antrim Assembly member and Antrim Councillor Trevor Clarke has today welcomed Asda to Antrim. He said that this new store will not only offer consumers better choice, but also provide the town with hundreds of jobs. Trevor Clarke said: “I have been in discussions … Read more

“[For Conservatives] this is seen in sort of a UK wide perspective..”

BBC NI’s Stephen Walker’s report on the leaked Conservative Party’s proposals for a merger with the UUP, which after talks between the parties resulted instead in a political alliance, includes comments from former Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland, Jeffrey Peel. It’s followed by a short studio discussion between Jim Fitzpatrick and Mark Devenport – the post from Jeffrey Peel which Mark refers to is here. Below the fold, UUP MLA Basil McCrea refers to “the real identity … Read more

Widespread disruption in Belfast and beyond

The BBC are reporting numerous bomb-alerts, closed roads and disorder across Belfast. I had a lengthy detour to get home, any updates etc add them below or drop me a mail if your aren’t registered. Mark McGregorBlogging at: http://heartsofoakandsteel.wordpress.com http://heartsofoakandsteel.wordpress.com

Standard & Poor’s downgrades Irish government debt

RTE reports that Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services downgraded it’s long term sovereign credit rating for Ireland from ‘AAA’ to ‘AA+’. The downgrade had been well telegraphed and the percieved risk in Irish government debt long priced into the spread paid by the government on Irish treasuries over German government bonds. S&P warn that Ireland may be downgraded again if public finances deteriote further. Bloomberg report that the cost of insuring Irish government debt rose 31 basis points, while the … Read more

The express train which has lost its momentum

[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] For the past 10 years I have been travelling on the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise express up to four times every week. It is with genuine relief at the end of a hard week of cross-border cooperation that I collapse onto the homebound train from Newry to Dublin with a cup of tea … Read more

“in the absence of a regulated system of transfer..”

On Hearts and Minds last week the Northern Ireland Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Cáitríona Ruane, assured Noel Thompson that “[The Catholic Church] told me, they were at pains to point out they would not be requesting a test… That they would [not] be requesting a test from the Department.” Today the NI Commission for Catholic Education finally made public their proposals. So far we just have a report in the Belfast Telegraph and from the BBC. The Commission for Catholic … Read more

Scotland faces a long hard squeeze

Over on Brassneck, Scotland is feeling the sharp end of the collapse in some financial services. But local solutions are not much use if the bigger global picture is not tackled… 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

Cross community measures cover Sammy’s unscientific knowledge…

Climate change is being subjected to a cross community vote in the Assembly today. But the DUP is going against its own policy to protect an Environment Minister who has taken a stance on climate change that is against it’s own policy. On the Politics Show yesterday, Arlene Foster dismisses the motion her party oppses as a stunt (which may be fair comment). But Alisdair McDonnell was probably not wrong either when he says that ‘Sammy’s making a bit of … Read more

“The UUP rejected the idea..”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but the BBC’s Stephen Walker has gotten his hands on an early discussion paper from the Conservative Party on their proposals for linking up with the UUP . Documents obtained by the BBC reveal that the Conservatives wanted to merge with the Ulster Unionists and set up a new party in Northern Ireland. It would have been called the Northern Ireland Conservative and Unionist Party – to be known as NICUP. The … Read more

“But we don’t all have crystal balls.”

No, nothing to do with portraitgate. An iol report refers to an Irish government budget deficit of €16billion. But perhaps that doesn’t take into account some recent Irish economic news.. or, maybe, that’s just part of Charlie McCreevy’s great British conspiracy.. ANYway.. RTÉ reports warning sounds from several Ministers. Mr Cowen added that the model of taxation would have to be adapted to suit the new circumstances. Speaking before today’s meeting, Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe said the budget is … Read more

Gardai arrest three in Dublin raid

Not much detail on this yet but two men and a woman, all described as being in their 30s, have been arrested in Dublin by police investigating republican paramilitary activity and are being held under Section 30 of the Republic of Ireland’s Offences Against the State Act. The BBC report notes that, “Police said that suspect devices have been found and have asked for support from an Irish army bomb disposal team. But the more up to date RTÉ report … Read more

Paddy bashing in the Sunday Times?

The Sunday Times ran a piece, entitled Bad Luck of The Irish, covering the impact of the current recession. It poses the question “Could Ireland be the first euro country to go bust?”, without running a comparison. They almost certainly mean Eurozone, but it’s not made explicit. Greece would be our nearest competitors in that regard, but as the FT recently pointed out – Ireland is taking it’s position seriously and making the hard decisions, Greece is not. However, the … Read more