National identity will be central to Higgins’ Presidency…

Maurice Hayes reckons Michael D Higgins is the right man to start a more inclusive (and less prescriptive) debate on the nature of a post troubles Irish identity: It was different in the South, where these events became remote, seen through the soft focus of ‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’ or the weekly ambush in the ‘Sunday Press’, filtering out all brutality but that of the Brits, sanitising violence by distance and a rousing ballad. Then McGuinness brings it … Read more

Euro crisis: “And all bets are off if Europe does not start to grow again…”

At the Guardian’s business blog, Graeme Wearden is live-blogging the European debt crisis, as the “OECD predicts some negative growth in eurozone in 2012… and calls for “bold” action from the G20, Italian bond yields hit 6.13%, Markets fall as bailout deal euphoria peters out, [and the] Euro crisis drags MF Global to the brink“. Meanwhile BBC Europe editor, Gavin Hewitt, considers “Europe after the euphoria” Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or that expectations had been exceeded, but there was a whiff … Read more

“Republicans had expected to do better because the conditions were so favourable”

Liam Clarke in the BelTel today with his views on Sinn Fein’s performance in #Aras11 (Liam says 6, and maybe 7 out of 10): It was less than they expected, but it left a solid base on which to build in every constituency. Their share of the first preference vote was 13.7%, compared to 9.9% in the recent general election which was, itself, an all-time high. Sinn Fein’s internal target during the contest was 20% and on the afternoon of … Read more

Bogus Twitter accounts, plausible deniability, and the use of unqualified leads…

As Chris notes, no one in current Sinn Fein will cry any tears over the way the Irish media tripped over itself to gobble up the fake story of Sean Gallagher and the cheque that never was… Update: It seems that the @Martin4Prez2011 (official) & @McGuinness4Pres (bogus) were born on the same day. But, as noted by Stewart below (and missed by me), the official account begins to tweet *2 days after* the parody. Which is odd. Update to the … Read more

Green Party NI conference, the visit of Alex Attwood, and criticism of MLAs who can’t read or believe the speeches written for them

Steven Agnew at gpni11 conference

I encountered a confidence within the Green Party in NI at Saturday’s conference. Their conference attendance was a tad smaller than the Workers Party event on the other side of Belfast. While the party was relieved to have Steven Agnew elected in Brian Wilson’s vacated seat (running against Wilson’s wife who was standing for Alliance) they were disappointed to only return three councillors in the local government elections. Speaking to @greenpartyni”s @StevenAgnew after their party conference (mp3) The party has … Read more

Thoughts on Robert Black’s conviction

Last week saw another of the murderers of the past brought to justice. In this case, however, there was absolutely no controversy. Robert Black was convicted of the 1981 kidnap and murder of Jennifer Cardy. Black had already been convicted of the murder of three other little girls and is suspected of a number more. The police investigation against him was apparently christened “Perseverance” and indeed the details are extremely impressive: 22 tons of evidence was accumulated; 2,500 potential suspects … Read more

Terrorists: the good, the bad and the ignored

I blogged my views about Gusty Spence previously. However, Mr. Spence’s death also raises the issue of how ex-terrorists (or ex-combatants for those who prefer the term: exactly how the actions committed terrorists could be called combat is bizarre, but I digress) are viewed especially by the media. The way in which the media views ex paramilitaries differs radically between different individuals and groups but there is a certain common thread especially amongst what might be termed the “establishment media” … Read more

Look back at Workers Party NI conference (including audio)

Table at Workers Party northern conference 2011

John Lowry welcomed around 100 delegates and union representatives to the Grosvenor Hall in Belfast. The northern conference of the Workers Party isn’t a policy-setting body. Lowry said that the party is making preparations for the next local government and Assembly elections to ensure “there is a vibrant socialist alternative”. About two thirds of attendees are older men. But there are pockets of young/middle aged and a handful of women. The past twelve months … Comrades, friends and guests … … Read more

What the UK spends stuff on.

Apologies for the delay and thanks to Malcolm Redfellow for the tip. Here’s a great graphic from the Guardian on UK Government spending 10/11. Have a play to find out the easiest way to interpretate. (I bought the paper to get hard copy,,,) Anyway UK debt interest is £44 billion quid a year. For those of us lucky enough to work that’s twenty quid a week each. Seven billion quid a year on  the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority….. Child benefit costs £12 … Read more

Why Sinn Fein will rightly raise three cheers for the Dragon-slaying Kingmaker from Derry

In years to come, 2011 may well be remembered as the most significant year in post-Good Friday Agreement Irish politics. The bail-out which decimated the once dominant Fianna Fail party has not only transformed the party political composition of Leinster House, but it has also provided the opening for Sinn Fein to make their inevitable entrance into the mainstream platform of southern Irish politics, a move effectively sealed by the performance of Martin McGuinness in the Presidential election race. McGuinness’ candidature has … Read more

“two challenges and a serious suggestion” offered to Ulster GAA by Dr Norman Hamilton

It’s hard to predict where a Presbyterian minister will pop up next. The latest nationalist foray was conducted this afternoon by former moderator Dr Norman Hamilton who had accepted an invitation to address the Ulster GAA at their Club and Community Development Conference in Armagh City Hotel (the scene of last week’s UUP conference). Back on 10 January when he was still moderator, Hamilton met with the Ulster GAA in Armagh. The meeting during which the news of Michaela McAreavey’s … Read more

#Aras11: How was it for …Fine Gael?

Well if it’s stating the bleeding obvious to say ‘not good’, it’s worth going into some detail as to why it turned out so badly for them at a time when they are riding so high in the polls. The short, trite answer is everything and nothing. The candidate was the one favoured by the parliamentary against the ringer Pat Cox, favoured by Enda Kenny. Cox is hardly the warmest of characters but his experience as President of the European … Read more

#Aras11: How was it for …Sinn Fein?

Good news is they came in third. Bad news is they only took a third of the votes of the winner. No doubt they were squeezed by the last minute rush to pick/block a winner, and they might have been better advised not stake so much faith in pushing up their percentage vote during a Presidential campaign where, as noted previously, voters are more fickle than normal. Without revisiting too much criticism already made here on Slugger of a campaign … Read more

#Aras11: How was it for… Fianna Fail?

Well, not at all bad for team apparently without a dog in the race. When it became clear Sean Gallagher had been an enthusiastic member of Fianna Fail until recently, certain sections of the media went apoplectic. Cue the Morgan revelation, and the sudden loss of momentum. But along with second place in Dublin West, it looks like the brand still has some poke in it yet. It remains to be seen to what extent, if any, Gallaghers own personal … Read more

#Aras11: How was it for …Labour?

Well, pretty magnificent. The old Dog for the hard road. Candidate selection was the critical factor. Michael D Higgins is one of the few professional politicians who can speak both engagingly and passionately about the Constitution. And the only one who managed to project himself in the role of President. By all accounts his farewell speech to his Labour colleagues was both powerful and emotional. But it was a farewell. There is little doubting the mans intention to play the … Read more

Lab + SF = FF + FG + 18.4%: #aras11 warm down

Presidential elections don’t tend to tear the space-time fabric of Irish politics. But as mood shifts, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese both managed to encapsulate subtle moves away from the manichean nonsense of patrician Catholic ‘civil war’ politics south of the border. The soon to be returned 9th President, Michael D,  will happily cite them as examples of why any judgement on him should be deferred to hindsight. At least he won’t be burdened by the dire forecasts that the 8th President carried into office with her. While … Read more

Ireland (Republic of)’s new President: Michael D Higgins

Hard not to like. Former member of Fianna Fail. Made certain he was available for the post by retiring from the day job in advance. Capable of dropping great constitutional quote. An taon fior Gael amhain sa ras don #Aras11. And finally the beneficiary of a late, and apparently fictional, googly from the once and future Deputy First Minister. Labour’s Michael D Higgins. Not so much a late sprint as a well paced long game, helped considerably by a hellishly … Read more

The other Irish [by]election

The Irish Times reports the preliminary results tallies at the Dublin West byelection. Labour councillor Patrick Nulty is expected to win the Dublin West byelection following completion of tallies at the Citywest count centre in Saggart, Co Dublin. With a turnout of 49 per cent, Cllr Nulty is on 24.3 per cent (8,491 votes) after 100 per cent of tallies have been counted. While there has been no official count yet, the councillor (28), who works for a homeless charity, … Read more

Wow, indeed.

Via Tom Chivers at the Telegraph blog. [Video courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center] This video was taken by the crew of Expedition 29 on board the International Space Station. The sequence of shots was taken October 18, 2011 from 07:09:06 to 07:27:42 GMT, on a pass from just south of Alaska to eastern Cuba. The camera used for this imagery was north-facing, so the Aurora Borealis stay visible throughout the video. Lights from … Read more

POTD – Billy Bragg and Occupy Belfast

Walking past the camp yesterday i heard what sounded like a familiar voice. When i looked to check it was indeed Billy Bragg who was in town to play a gig at the Empire last night. He had called down to offer support to the camping protestors. Safe to say that any donations of food and provisions would be very welcome. Moochin PhotomanPhotographer and visual artist based in Belfast. I have facilitated community based workshops with groups as diverse as … Read more