Assembly members’ expenses face greater public scrutiny…

IT’S been agreed that all details of MLAs? expenses from April 2003 onwards will be available online by the end of November 2009. That goes well beyond the previous thinking on the matter, that only claims from April 2009 would be published. It seems that the clamour for transparency has had some effect, although I’d expect any publication here to be even more heavily redacted than the official Westminster expenses (for ‘security reasons’, natch; stuff like bulletproof curtains and the … Read more

“a fragile flower which requires careful tending”

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport has some interesting observations on the High Court ruling on the challenge to the appointment of four Victims Commissioners by then First and deputy First Ministers. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were not subpoenaed about their un-documented and witness-free meetings, in office, about the eventual appointments. BBC report here. The ruling is not yet online. From the Devenport Diaries Ms Williamson’s lawyers had argued that the failure of Messrs Paisley and McGuinness to keep … Read more

Stratagem has website makeover…

THE website of local public affairs and NI’s first lobbying firm Strategem has had a makeover, with a useful constituency map and a Twitter feed recently added. Stratagem partnered Slugger for our awards, in case you’ve forgotten, and supported the recent PICamp initiative, which both went exceptionally well IMHO. So here’s your free plug! Belfast Gonzo

Ian Paisley Jnr fined £5000 for contempt of court

The profit made by Sarcon 250 the Ballymena Advice Centre Ltd doesn’t quite cover Ian Paisley Jnr’s reported fine for contempt of court – £5000. Apparently he’s also had costs awarded against him. And then there’s this in the iol report Mr Paisley also heavily criticised the Billy Wright inquiry lawyer, John Larkin QC, who yesterday told the court the MLA would relish being imprisoned for defying the order because it would further his political career. The former Stormont junior … Read more

“Just a bit of politics”?

The breach of Executive confidentiality yesterday by the Northern Ireland Minister for Employment and Learning, the UUP’s Reg Empey, and his description of the dysfunctional NI Executive being “run like a huckster’s shop”, wasn’t deemed sufficiently newsworthy to be mentioned on the main BBC NI news [Newsline]. And, as noted yesterday, although it got plenty of radio coverage, there was a considerable delay in it being reported online. Was that something to do with NI Finance Minister, the DUP’s Nigel … Read more

“Let’s see what happens..”

As Brian said, the reported meeting in Downing St is one to watch during the day. Whether or not, as Noel McAdam’s anonymous sources claim, it’s a “crisis” or, as his Downing St source says, it’s “routine, stock-taking”, there’s certainly confusion about the meeting. Below the fold Martina Purdy looks ahead at the big question for the autumn, what do we do about the transfer of policing and justice powers? And what will we do about the bill? Here’s what … Read more

PICamp to ask some big questions in London

Next Monday PICamp has another run out. This time it will be a strand in a much larger event in London called Reboot Britain. As some of you will have noticed in the last few weeks much of my focus over the last week or two has been less about politics (well, this is summer with a local recess coming up rapidly, and just before the marching season gets properly underway), and more about the politics of the media and … Read more

One to watch during the day

Noel McAdam in the Bel Tel heightens expectations of a breakthrough over devolving justice and policing in Gordon Brown’s summons of FM and DFM to Downing St this afternoon. Only problem is, there are doubts about Peter Robinson’s attendance. Is this a hard “No, no, no” or just a signal of reluctance? We should know by lunchtime. To the BBC, the DUP spokesman is distinctly sniffy about a mere invitation from the PM. What is a devolved First Minister think … Read more

Iraqis unready to take over

It was the New York Times through straightforward reporting, who first revealed the facts that “mission accomplished” in Iraq was the hollowest of claims. And it’s the NY Times again that casts serious doubt on the permanent effect of General Petraeus’s surge. Tomorrow (Tuesday) US troops hand over most combat duties to the Iraqis. And by the end of 2011, the Americans are due to have pulled out altogether. Rod Nordland gave a preview of his report on the Today … Read more

“I am disappointed at the discriminatory attitude of the IFA to this issue.”

Previously Sinn Féin had called on the Irish Farmers’ Association “to reconsider their partitionist and negative position”, after the IFA had criticised the Irish Government for awarding a €350,000 contract to a non Bord Bia Assured chicken processing company outside the Republic [Crossgar Poultry]. Today the Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister, Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew, has accused the IFA of having a “discriminatory attitude” and has said that “[she] will be contacting Minister O’Dea to clarify his position on this matter … Read more

“Run like a huckster’s shop”

That’s the Northern Ireland Minister for Employment and Learning the UUP’s Reg Empey’s verdict on the dysfunctional NI Executive. [So what’s the alternative? – Ed]. His comments came after the NI Finance Minister, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, blamed the two UUP members of the Executive for his deferral of a scheduled statement in the Assembly on the June budget monitoring round – a written statement is expected later in the summer. According to Reg Empey that decision was made because … Read more

Maze to be delisted?

Sammy Wilson is about to go to the Economics portfolio. However, in his current role as Enviroment Minister he has asked his officials to look at the possibility of delisting the Maze prison site. This has long been called for by Jim Allister and such a move could be seen as a way to gain hard line support. However, any delisting especially if it then led to demolition of the buildings would be extremely unpopular with republicans. TurgonThis author has … Read more

Ballymena Advice Centre Ltd makes a profit

Apparently the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr faces “financial ruin” over his legal bills.. But perhaps he can have a second career as a property developer? As David Gordon reports in the Belfast Telegraph, the company named as the owner of his Ballymena offices – Sarcon 250 the Ballymena Advice Centre Ltd – has made a profit [£3,857]! Which is odd. Given that Ian Paisley Jnr has previously stated, in relation to the £57,200 p.a. in public funds that he and … Read more

Executive’s stance on recession is “economic madness”

Some words of cheer and others of warning from Mike Smyth the plain-speaking University of Ulster economist whose presentation to the Intertrade Ireland conference, Ive dipped into, after being alerted by Liam Clarke in the Newsletter. Nothing too surprising in it, but the cumulative effect is salutary. (BTW, like me you can view the speech and download the powerpoint but it would have been great if video services at the event had loosened the camera shot on Smyth to include … Read more

Jeffrey Donaldson and Coriolanus

The Tragedy of Coriolanus is about the Roman general Caius Martius who despite being arrogant and relatively unpopular in Rome wins a series of military victories against the Volscians which leads to him being given the title Coriolanus and proposed as consul. Such is his arrogance, however, that the citizens turn against him and he is banished. In revenge he joins with the Volscians and marches on Rome; only being persuaded to spare the city by his own family. It … Read more

Northern Ireland’s Green New Deal?

There’s an intriguing coalition of groups behind the proposed Green New Deal for Northern Ireland. Although I can’t tell if they’re connected to this group. The briefing documents at the Friends of the Earth website [pdf file] lists those involved as – Bryson Charitable Group, Chamber of Commerce, CBI, Energy Savings Trust, Friends of the Earth, Institute of Directors, ICTU, NICVA, NI Environment Link, NI Federation of Housing Associations, NI Manufacturing, Sustainable Development Commission, Translink, and the Ulster Farmers Union. … Read more

Murphy’s law leads us into a cul-de-sac

I’m exploiting my privileges to rework my response to Pete’s interesting thread on Patrick Murphy’s article in the Irish News, “Irish history tends to be a rerun of same events .” Does Murphy’s honestly argued piece reveal wider disenchantment with the whole Assembly experience among thinking nationalists? I hope not. He makes a rod for his own back by overrestricting his definition of democracy and overplaying the role of history. He asks for instance: Do nationalists benefit by having nationalist … Read more

Playing fast and loose with the law PSNI drive republicans out of Belfast

The BBC and UTV place the number of people attending éirígí’s banned protest against ‘Armed Forces Day’ in Belfast between 50 and 100. From the footage that seems about right. What seems strange is the police claiming they prevented the protest as it became an ‘illegal parade’ in Castle St when protestors stepped on the road – a technically correct interpretation of the law on parades and protests. However, what the PSNI failed to mention is roadworks on Castle Street … Read more

Saffron victory sets up David and Goliath battle for Ulster title

Antrim’s 0-13 to 1-07 victory over Cavan at Clones tonight has set up an Ulster Senior Football Championship Final pairing that few- if any- would have predicted only a matter of weeks ago. Antrim produced a superb attacking performance and solid defending to see off the Breffni men, though a number of jittery moments ensured that the Saffrons’ clear dominance was not fully reflected on the scoreboard and ensured the game went down to the wire. The victory secures Antrim … Read more

“this will be the case for as long as the new dispensation lasts”

In an article in the Irish News today [no subs req], Patrick Murphy makes some important points about the Northern Ireland Assembly’s compulsory power-sharing system. From the Irish News article. In the old Stormont, the opposition was ignored. In the new Stormont, the opposition has been abolished. How democratic is a parliament without an opposition? Advocates of the new system argue that it brings political benefits. But does it? It gives constitutional authority to sectarianism and promotes political schizophrenia. Both … Read more