“bright colours and/or striped materials should not be worn as these may distort the images” … a summons … and a protest … it’s democracy live

belfast city council logo

Tomorrow could be an interesting day – and night – around Belfast City Hall. A rally is being planned to protest at the Lord Mayor’s actions at Monday night’s Duke of Edinburgh Award ceremony. Facebook suggests: [click on the thumbnail to expand] The people of Belfast will emerge on the City hall tomorrow night at 6pm [or 5pm depending on where you look] to express their anger. We would hope that Citizens from all over Northern Ireland will join for … Read more

Peter Robinson tactics, strategy and Stranmillis

Mick has a blog on Alex Kane’s latest column looking at Peter Robinson’s conference speech below as has Chris Donnelly. One line in it struck me that Robinson was a master strategist. I have in the past described Robinson as a good tactician but a poor strategist. However, more recently I have begun to think I was wrong and that the tactics had become so long term that they had become a strategy. Indeed the vision sketched out by Robinson … Read more

The DUP’s Shared Future- Protestants and the (unidentified) pro-Union Catholics need only apply

Mick has already linked a thread to Alex Kane’s article in the Newsletter regarding Peter Robinson’s Conference speech at the weekend. But the focus of that thread is on Kane’s observation regarding the importance of the DUP’s vocabulary in delivering on their ‘catholic’ project. However, the most significant aspect of the unfolding DUP strategy is what it reveals about the nature of the shared future and society which the main political leadership of unionism is advancing. Here’s the relevant paragraphs … Read more

Yet more devolved discrimination

Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities, which are the most popular in Scotland with students from the rest of the UK,  have decided to charge  £36,000 for a four-year course- their degree courses will be the most expensive in the nation. The SNP’s Education Secretary  Mike Russell has (bearing in mind his party is the architect of the discriminatory tuition fee policy) hypocritically criticised the two institutions.  Robin Parker, president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said: “We’re deeply disappointed that … Read more

Justice Minister: “grandstanding and chest beating seen in the Chamber” on mandatory sentences call

As the BBC reports, yesterday in the Northern Ireland Assembly, by 44 votes to 41, MLAs called on the NI Justice Minister, Alliance Party leader David Ford, to “introduce legislation to impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for people who are found guilty of violent crimes against older or vulnerable people”. The motion was agreed despite opposition from the NI Justice Minister and a number of MLAs with legal backgrounds.  The NI Justice Minister also pointed out that, “officials from my Department are in … Read more

Robinson (and DUP’s) use of language could make or break his strategy…

Alex Kane has some useful thoughts on the DUP, post Robinson’s speech. In particular, he notes a key difference in the trajectories of the two big parties in Northern Ireland, themselves and Sinn Fein: the degree to which each has invested in further penetration of the middle class vote: Robinson knows that the DUP’s survival requires movement beyond the ‘happy-clappy’ evangelicalism of Protestant/unionist fundamentalism and onto territory which is reasonably comfortable for the liberal, secular wing of unionism too. For … Read more

Death blast lessons

The lengthy excerpt below appeared as an article by Ciaran McKeown in the Irish Press on Monday 6th December 1971 entitled ‘Death blast lesson for the North’. McKeown wrote the piece in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of McGurk’s Bar on the preceding Saturday night, the 4th December, the fortieth anniversary of which falls this weekend. It is worth reading if only to reflect on the lessons which were not learned back in 1971. I’ve retained the layout, including headings from the original and … Read more

Memo to BBC: The NI Executive voted these measures through

Why are the BBC busying themselves counting the number of MLAs turning up for work today?  Don’t they know the Northern Ireland Executive voted in favour of the blanket increase of 3.2 per cent in public-sector pension contributions? Admittedly they did so behind closed doors, and didn’t tell anyone at the time. [Some parties don’t seem to remember either – Ed]  Some parties have still to tell the public how their ministers voted at the time… Pete Baker

Why are Irish researchers so uninterested in North-South cooperation?

After more than 12 years of toiling in the field of North-South cooperation in Ireland, one of the real puzzles for me remains the lack of interest shown by our university academics and researchers in this important and innovative aspect of peacemaking and politics, economics and society on this island. In the past two months the Centre for Cross Border Studies has held two significant conferences attended by over 250 people: the first on cross-border training and impact assessment in … Read more

Hotels in conflict …

Europa Hotel, Belfast via Rory Storey Photography on Flickr

In this morning’s Independent, Jonathan Brown takes a look at infamous conflict hotels. The Rex Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali, King David Hotel in Jerusalem … and closer to home, the Europa Hotel in Belfast! When work began on the site of the former Great Northern Railway station in the early 1970s, the Europa and its 12 glass-fronted stories were supposed to herald a sophisticated, cosmopolitan future for Belfast. But by the 1980s … Read more

Osborne defies local expectations with a £200 million boost

Anyone who has watched the twitter feeds from hashtags like #budget2012, will have noted just how over heated people are getting over a terrible budget coming down the track. That suggests to me that the government is trailing a doom it does not quite intend to deliver. Something like the trick played by George Osborne today. It was enough to prompt Conor Murphy to issue this doom laden warning this afternoon: Sammy Wilson’s speculation that measures expected to be taken … Read more

The Right Honourable, the Lord Mayor, Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile…

According to a UTV report, Sinn Féin Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile, Lord Mayor of Belfast, was at Belfast City Hall on Monday evening handing out Northern Ireland Silver Duke of Edinburgh Awards to “over 166 young people”, between the aged of 14 and 24, “from all backgrounds”.  Almost.  From the UTV report During the service at Belfast City Hall on Monday evening, the Lord Mayor stopped presenting the certificates to the group when it became clear that one of the recipients … Read more

Donaldson calls for DUP-led pan-UK unionist movement #dupconf

Beyond the headline of attracting more Catholic unionists in Northern Ireland, Jeffrey Donaldson raised an interesting proposal for the DUP to lead a pro-Union campaign for unionists WITHIN Scotland and Wales… Unexpectedly bumping into my friend Thomas Hennessey, I chose to stay at the DUP annual conference and attend a discussion panel that he was participating in, “Strengthening Unionism”: Jonathan Bell MLA (Chair) Jeffrey Donaldson MP Ian Paisley MP Thomas Hennessey Mr Hennessey made reference to the late Sir Philip … Read more

News International being investigated over allegations of hacking into NIO computers

The Guardian has a fascinating breaking story… Metropolitan police that they are investigating evidence that his computer, and those of senior Northern Ireland civil servants and intelligence agents, may have been hacked by private detectives working for News International. Tom Watson notes: Phone hacking is one thing, but targeting the computers of ministers with high-security clearance takes this police investigation to another level. It also raises questions for News International about whether its management were aware.” Indeed. We’ll wait to … Read more

IBRC: “Today’s Commercial Court judgment gives clear, unambiguous recognition to the legal obligations of Mr Quinn…”

Following last week’s order to repay loans of almost €417 million that Sean Quinn had personally guaranteed, today the Dublin Commercial Court added additional loans worth over €1.6 billion to the bill. The ruling was made at the Commerical Court in Dublin. The total involves 1.52bn euros, $589m and 13 billion Japanese yen. Mr Quinn did not attend the proceedings. The official receiver in charge of Mr Quinn’s bankruptcy in Northern Ireland indicated he would be making no application to challenge the order. … Read more

“Refuelling a pre-existing culture of victimhood with the burning kerosene of distant injustice”

We don’t often quote from Kevin Myers these days, but this piece deserves linking not least for his telling of the story of the son of one of the victims of 1 Para at the entrance to Ballymurphy in August 1971. First: 40 years ago, the Parachute Regiment had become state-authorised killers in Northern Ireland. According to David McKittrick’s indispensable volume ‘Lost Lives’, the Paras killed 39 people between 1971 and 1976. Only seven of these were paramilitaries: but one … Read more

“Them and us” versus “all of us” with the Alliance party in the middle…

Thanks to Mark for a heads up on this one… If you thought the sectarian punch up had gone away, think again. It’s still there, it’s just they are using other party’s ministerial portfolios to batter each other with. In this case, Stephen Farry of the Alliance party. Stephen Farry on Stranmillis College Queen”s merger (mp3) Story over to Mark Devenport: With a population of just 1.8 million people, Mr Farry reckoned Northern Ireland should have a single teacher training … Read more

“When this is all over, ordinary priests and regular RTÉ journalists will have something in common?”

Hard to deny Jude Collins’ observation that there is a “not-too-obvious-but-still-there anti-Catholic Church strand in the Irish media”. It’s not just in the Irish media. There is a wider assumption that the Catholic church and only the Catholic church has questions to answer in relation to child sex abuse. An accurate assay of the extent of the problem is hard to make since it is a necessarily hidden practice. One of my freer primary school teachers (a devote Catholic himself) … Read more

Retaining “our shared Christian ethos” in shared education #dupconf

  With Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson MP MLA, providing a warm up act at the DUP annual conference, I attended a panel discussion on “Fixing Education”: Michelle McIlveen MLA (Chair) Rev. Trevor Gribben (Transferors’ Representative Council) Billy Young (President, Association for Quality Education (AQE)) Gerry Lundy (Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS)) Mervyn Storey MLA The first question was whether the Education Skills Authority (ESA), announced in the recent Programme for Government, will improve education in Northern Ireland. … Read more

Robinson: “This speech of Robinson’s seemed bolder…”

There has been a lot comment expressing doubts about Peter Robinson’s sincerity re bringing Catholics into the party. But Gerry Moriarty has the critical factor. It can be read against delivery: There wasn’t much meat on the bones, so to speak, but Robinson definitely set out a broad vision for the party that includes seeking to bring Catholics into the DUP, and more generally to persuade more of them to hold with the North’s union with Britain. In a sense … Read more