Can the slow death of Irish Nationalism be averted?

Two weeks ago during a fleeting exchange with Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers I congratulated her on her government’s radical attempts to dismantle the UK’s bloated public sector and hard-earned welfare state before encouraging a bold expedition of the project where its need is greatest: Northern Ireland. On a personal and professional level Ms. Villiers came across just fine – approachable, polite, all that stuff – but I was never likely to be smitten since the very nature of her office … Read more

Behaviour and Attitudes: And then there were two..

Cedar Lounge have the figures for tomorrow’s Behaviours and Attitudes poll in the Sunday Times: Fine Gael 27 (+1); Fianna Fail 23 (-1); Lab 7 (-4); Sinn Fein 15 (-4); Ind 25 (+7) So much for the grand political photon then? These figures are more like the truth of the matter. FG holding a narrow lead over FF, and SF holding a very clear lead over Labour whose world, just now, is truly falling apart. That independent figure is high, … Read more

London using financial levers to remind Executive of its responsibility to address sectarian divides

East Belfast MP Naomi Long asked a long question [Q7] during Prime Minster’s Questions on Wednesday 13 March. She wanted to know what role he saw for the British and Irish governments “as joint custodians of the agreement” in progressing the outstanding issues of “reconciliation, unequivocal support for the rule of law, and to deal comprehensively with the past and its legacy”. David Cameron answered: I think there is of course a responsibility for the Taoiseach and the British Prime … Read more

Good Friday Agreement at 15: The dour fatalism of our political Calvinists…

Maybe it’s because it took place in the last Millenium that our memories of that fateful day seem so quickly dated and fading so quickly. The freshest piece writing from that time is Danny Morrison’s great piece of gonzo journalism: Then, at 7.10 am Mitchell McLaughlin arrives to read out a short statement but not to answer questions. In confident tones he declares that Sinn Fein has, during negotiations, clawed back a considerable amount of ground which it believed had … Read more

Meath East: We’ve seen it all before

Irish by-elections, by and large, are a bit of harmless fun. The outcome rarely influences the balance of forces in parliament, but it gives the voters a chance to give the incumbent party – whatever incumbent party – a good shoeing. Everyone feels better about themselves except whatever hapless candidate has been persuaded to stand by the ruling party. Famously, no government party had won a by-election for 30 years until Patrick Nulty stood under the Labour banner in 2011 – and he was an opposition politician in all but name, remedying even that within a couple of months.

Read moreMeath East: We’ve seen it all before

Born and live in London, brought up in Dublin, roots in East Belfast. Occasional blogging at and far more frequent tweets at

Fracking: The problem regulating an unpredictable industry

Fracking, eh… This is just one of the issues we’re likely to see come up at the Fermanagh G8… We plan to do more on the subject, but in the meantime here’s a story from Oklahoma… tks put you off your cornflakes… 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: … Read more

Why is the BBC ghettoising NI regional outputs?

I almost missed 14 Days, a documentary on one of several traumatic weeks in the history of the Troubles. Paul Canning, who’s based in Cambridge didn’t, and writes an impressively well researched blog asking (amongst several other things), why don’t the BBC mainstream more locally produced work? The ‘BBC NI only’ shows are (or were) all also on iPlayer, which is the reason I know about them at all as I often skim the ‘factual’ strand, I didn’t find them because they … Read more

First Minister preaching integration whilst the road map burns?

Former UCU-NF candidate for East Londonderry Leslie McAuley, now with the Tories had some interesting remarks on Peter Robinson’s TEDx presentation yesterday.. “Integrated schools, which are actually out there providing shared education, are consistently being denied the funds and new buildings they need to satisfy demand from parents. The sector is not being given a sufficient voice in the bodies which run education. Neither integrated schools not grammars will have significant influence in the single Education and Skills Authority. Most … Read more

Meath East: First tallies make FG early favourites…

For those of you who have never been to an Irish count, here’s the first boxes being opened… The atmosphere is not unlike a country Mart… It will get more crowded as the day goes on… So far, here’s the tallies for the first preference vote… Final joint tally: FF 33.43%; Ben Gilroy 6.55; Lab 3.90; FG 38.41; SF 12.92 #mhe13 @irishtimespol @irishtimes — mary minihan (@minihanmary) March 28, 2013 The greybeards are saying that the FF candidate needs to … Read more

Imagine … TEDx talks by Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness and others … under the gaze of Lord Craigavon

The Great Hall (the entrance hall) of Parliament Buildings up on the hill is a commanding setting for today’s TEDxStormont event. Seventeen speakers, three musical artists, the statue of Lord Craigavon basking in orange red light, and the portrait of Lord Bannside looking down on the couple of hundred delegates sitting below (with a small bottle of the devil’s buttermilk in their goody bags). The First Minster and deputy First Minister were the first two speakers this morning, fitting in … Read more

Comet 2013 A1: Rendezvous with Mars…

Here’s something to think about whilst waiting to see if Comet ISON will fizzle, or sizzle.  The latest Science at Nasa video looks at the trajectory, and consequences for Mars missions, of Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring).  Discovered as recently as 3 January this year, this Oort cloud object will pass “extraordinarily close” to the planet Mars on 19 October 2014 – an actual collision, although unlikely, has not been ruled out yet [1:2000].  It’s estimated that an impact of the ~1-3 km-wide Comet 2013 A1, travelling at around … Read more

Parliamentary Written Answer of the Week…

They don’t have to be dull.  As demonstrated yesterday by the clearly well-read Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Conservative MP, Brandon Lewis.  Here’s the nominated written question and answer Tom Blenkinsop: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether his Department has any plans to deregulate the publication of planning permission applications in local newspapers. [149335] Brandon Lewis [holding answer 21 March 2013]: Ministers have been clear that, in an internet age, … Read more


Sir George Quigley died on 3 March after a long and full life of service to Northern Ireland and Ireland. He was as near as a small place like Northern Ireland gets to a Renaissance man: head of four government departments; chairman of Ulster Bank and Bombardier; the tireless chair of numerous public bodies in both parts of Ireland; leader of the campaign for lower corporation tax; author of a mould-breaking report on contentious parades; overseer of loyalist arms decommissioning … Read more

What Northern Ireland really needs is a REAL debate on its economic future…

Why was Sammy Wilson not as keen as some of his unionist colleagues on the Corporation Tax deal? Richard Murphy enumerates the prime reason. Stormont would have to make up the inevitable shortfall… With the banks in regression, and killing off struggling business, no one was taking any chances: …the last thing Northern Ireland needs to be is a tax haven. What it does require is a real debate on what its economic future should look like. And that’s the … Read more

Robinson tells Cameron he’s playing a ‘powerless-inside-the-union card’ on Scotland…

I was asked yesterday why neither of the two leaders in Northern Ireland said much on the subject of Scottish independence. This may be one reason. Expressing his frustration with the lack of progress on corpo tax, the First Minister said this: “What, effectively, you are saying to the people of Scotland is that if you want more fiscal autonomy than you have at the present time, the only way to have it is through independence. That is the wrong … Read more

The pro-Union wheels are starting to turn in Scotland. But they could still come off the bus

Not before time, the wheels may be turning at last in the creaking pro-union machine  to craft an effective reply to the SNP’s delivery vehicle for Scottish independence.  The leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson has done a U-turn  (£) to explore the idea of more and greater taxation powers for Holyrood.  I wonder if  The Herald’s editorial  is right, that this is as much a problem as an opportunity for Ms Davidson? The problem for the Tory leader is … Read more

Corporation Tax is not Northern Ireland’s elephant in the room…

So, Corporation Tax cut bites the dust, for another year at least. I doubt we can entirely blame disunity at OFMdFM for this particular dropped ball though. It was very much a project of the previous Secretary of State. The Chancellor (or rather the Treasury) was never keen, and David Cameron does not need to queer his Scottish referendum pitch. The latest indicators suggest that the number of entrepreneurial businesses have halved, even if those surviving are now more profitable. … Read more

Theresa Villiers: “I’m extremely pleased that we were able to answer the Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill’s request for a military helicopter…”

Following a request yesterday from the Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, to the Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, for “urgent access to helicopter support“, an RAF Chinook flew from its Hampshire base today to airlift supplies in order “to get food on the ground for stranded animals“.  [It’s just “a transport helicopter“! – Ed]  And the NI Agriculture Minister explained to UTV that the request was made “for helicopter support from the MOD” because it was “becoming very … Read more

“This gang thought they could exploit rules for genuine British filmmakers and thieve from the public purse for their own gain”

When the BBC report notes that the actress/producer sentenced to 5 years 5 months, reduced to 4 years 8 months, for her part in a £2.8million VAT and film tax credits scam, was “from London”, what they mean is that she was from Newry, with an address in London – as UTV correctly reported.  [I blame the PA copy – Ed]  Perhaps… What neither mentioned, but both the Irish Times and the Irish News do report today, is that the actress involved, Aoife … Read more

Could Fianna Fail’s debt arbitration bill be the difference in Meath East?

Ah, John beat me to a good analysis of the Meath East by election. I’d go with most of it, except for the inference that party policy is no different between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. It’s a popular line in the media and particularly beloved by political rivals! It does carries a certain truth since no one in mainstream Irish politics has ever been particularly wedded to ideology. The very first government after independence introduced eye wateringly tight fiscal … Read more