Northern Ireland broadcasters should not put their trust in politicians

I see the Commons Northern Ireland Committee has fallen for vigorous lobbying by the small but perfectly formed local broadcasting industry. Good luck to them, so long as we don’t take some the committee’s suggestions too seriously, as posted by Pete. One is self evidently bonkers financially and constitutes unacceptable political intervention. The Committee has called for the government to provide a fund for non-news programmes to be administered by the NI Assembly. Another sounds reasonable to the uninitiated but … Read more

More important than life and death?

The Confederation of African Football (CAF), the body regulating football in Africa, has fined the National football authorities in Togo $50,000 and banned the team from the next two African Nations Cup tournaments. The confederation has justified the move on the grounds that the national government of Togo allegedly interfered in footballing matters by ordering the national team home instead of allowing players to continue participating in the tournament after two team officials were killed when the team bus they … Read more

Senior SF member critical of Adams

During Friday’s Michael Reade show on LMFM (Louth Radio station); On foot of text comments about Liam Adams, Deputy Morgan tells Michael he feels his party president, Gerry Adams, badly handled allegations of sexual abuse against his brother.’ The relevant part of the broadcast is at 15m47s but it is worth listening to in full. “As for the whole story of Liam Adams and how it was handled generally there is certainly no glory in that for Sinn Fein. I’m … Read more

Unionist difficulties…

THIS is more of an update to Pete’s post than anything – a report of Lady Hermon’s address last night to the SDLP North Down Constituency Association (via Jeff Peel). Hermon reportedly confirms she will stand as an independent, and – after the UUP talks with the DUP organised by the Orange Order – admits she doesn’t know which way Sir Reg Empey is leading his party. The depth of ill-feeling is self-evident, although even Sir Reg might now be … Read more

How are people ever going to face up to their responsibilities as elected representatives

It’s refreshing to see the Irish Times give some space to the not inconsiderable political intelligence of Stephen Collins to think about the phoney production which may be grinding its way back to a curiously inconclusive end. He points to a Seanad order of business debate in which Northern Ireland comes up. It’s a reflection of how denuded that chamber has become from Northern Irish affairs that the only non platitudinal remarks came from the former PD TD Fionna O’Malley: … Read more

No, don’t bring back Blair

Tony Blair’s appearance at the Iraq inquiry was a blast from the past that ought to stay there. It prompted no wistful thoughts of the maestro staging a comeback to rescue the Assembly again. Not that I sympathise for a second with any revisionist thinking that he made a terrible mistake in drawing Sinn Fein into a new political system. I rate his “acts of completion speech” his best ever. Whatever guarantees we need to give that we will implement … Read more

“And still we waited..”

On the local evening news yesterday Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy denied that there had been a “wobble amongst republicans” as Mark Devenport suggested. Interestingly, the Irish Times’ Gerry Moriarty clearly heard similar reports Conscious of mistakes made in previous negotiations, both the DUP and Sinn Féin were anxious not to be wrong-footed. Some sources spoke of disagreements within the Sinn Féin camp. There was no Sinn Féin confirmation, needless to say, while another neutral source put down any republican disquiet … Read more

An open appeal to all Republicans from Ms Cahill

This statement comes to Slugger from Ms Cahill. It is carried in full. Over the last number of weeks, there have been several allegations circulating – alleged to have been perpetrated by members of the Republican Movement. There has been mixed reaction to this within the Republican Community, but particularly those within the Provisional republican movement, and those within Sinn Fein Circles. This reaction ranges from outright disgust, horror, condemnation, to the very damaging “turn a blind eye and say … Read more

“I now go forward with the full backing of my local members.”

According to a BBC report, the independently minded MP for North Down, Lady Sylvia Hermon, secured the “unanimous support” of her local Ulster Unionist Association at that “key constituency meeting” yesterday. From the BBC report. On 28 January, Lady Hermon met with the North Down UUP Association at it’s AGM, she said it was a very “good-natured meeting”. “After such a turbulent time since making known my strong opposition to the Tory link, I was greatly encouraged and deeply appreciative … Read more

The saga of high garden hedge legislation, or election-discounting devolution for teens…

A year into the new Assembly I argued that it was premature to judge the Assembly on its lack of product. I argued that it would take three years before we could see legislation coming through… Then we might judge… Well, three years on, and well, I suppose we get a bye on water rates, and er, well over Newton Emerson on Hearts and Minds and Ed Poots’, er, high hedge law done the hard way… In England and Wales, … Read more

Still on duty…

Peter Robinson says a deal can be done: He said:”It is perfectly possible if everybody was prepared to move that little bit further.” Conor Murphy says there is no deal. He said it has been “a defining day.””It shall have to be called soon.” He added. Adds: The nastiness seems to be clearing. Adams said at a press conference this evening that he would not still be here if there was nothing on. Eamonn Mallie

Lessons in democracy

Picking up from Mick here, is it good or back luck that the latest Stormont cliffhanger has been overshadowed outside by just about everything, from a feeble end to the recession, a widening poverty gap, and a week of Middle East obsessions, from Yemen and Afghanistan to Blair? Probably only inasmuch as it prevented Gordon Brown keeping up the pressure in person and shortening his life by, I make it, getting only 8 hours sleep in 72 hours. Whatever the … Read more

Constructive ambiguity is dead. Its finally political prisoners’ dilemma time

Both the Belfast and St Andrews agreements eventually faltered due to the outworking of ‘constructive ambiguity’ built in to ensure ideologically opposed parties could accept the same text as delivering different things.In the case of the Belfast agreement the key element dealt with by this fudging was IRA decommissioning. While Unionists clearly believed they had extracted a deadline for delivery, SF quite rightly returned to the issue stating they, as a political party, had only committed to encouraging decommissioning. This … Read more

When Hillsborough’s charmless burlesque ends will the fat lady sing or just put her clothes back on?

[From my 6pm update at the Guardian] On Wednesday, Gordon Brown threatened to publish a government timeline by this morning if there were no agreement between the local parties. When the talking finished at 5am Friday, there was talk of shifting the deadline back to midday. Then, it was late this evening. Now, the latest rumour is that negotiations may take a break for the weekend and talks will resume on Monday.There is little doubt they have been talking and … Read more

A tribute to the amazing Armagh Rhymers

[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] If I ever became Mayor of Armagh, the first thing I would do is to give the freedom of the city to the Vallely family. John B. Vallely is the best known of them, an artist who despite his international reputation has continued to live and work in his home place, … Read more

Spirit of Mars

Nasa’s Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, has been stuck in soft soil on Mars since May last year. After failing to free it in the months since, NASA has now designated the once-roving scientific explorer “a stationary science platform”. Below the fold JPL news celebrates 6 years of roving by the “little rover who could”. But first, here’s a short compilation of the sights they’ve seen. Here’s the longer version with contributions from the scientists involved. From JPL news Meanwhile, the … Read more

Paterson: “there was nothing of consequence arising from the meeting”

Owen Paterson, responding no doubt to Michael Crick’s attempt to play him, has this to say about what Slugger understands to be the Orange Order’s regular and usually ill-fated attempt (they tried in 2001 and 2005) to get unionist unity before a general election: “In his capacity as Ulster Unionist leader, Sir Reg Empey regularly meets all strands of opinion throughout Northern Ireland. He referred ‘in passing’ to a meeting, requested in October and held in December, but I was … Read more

Will ‘private’ talks with DUP scupper Conservative-UUP pact?

The Conservative Party’s Northern Ireland spokesman, Owen Paterson, is reportedly seeking a meeting with UUP leader Reg Empey about those private talks with the DUP that the Conservatives were unaware of… And someone has been talking to the BBC’s Michael Crick “Some in Belfast think that the Conservative-UUP pact is now effectively dead, and that Conservative leader David Cameron will be forced to announce its demise within the next few days.” Update Mick has Owen Paterson’s response. Pete Baker

After three years of inaction and pointless wrangling from Sinn Féin and the DUP…

Over on Comment is Free I’ve a longish analysis on what’s eating away at the core of the Northern Ireland political settlement. With the two former extremes now in charge, we have talent at the top, but two parties overly focused on the needs of conflicting special interests that have led them to fetishise an issue that is of little interest to the general population one way or the other… Leaving each bound, and struggling to regain their relevance in … Read more

On the need for a more open conversational politics…

I’ve a piece in today’s print version of the News Letter, I’ll not be putting it out on Slugger, but I have shared the full text with our LinkedIn Politics and Public Affairs in Northern Ireland (open to all with a LinkedIn account) group. In it I argue that the DUP has de facto been made more open by the crisis, when politicians who might otherwise have queued politely for their turn to gain access through the press office now … Read more