SDLP “A party not sure of where it is going or who it wants to take with it…”

When ‘talking’ by email last night, a friend who is far from unsympathetic to the SDLP remarked “you know you’ve a problem in politics and life when its your own efforts that afflict you most!” Alasdair McDonnell has just had a fortnight from hell, and for the most part the hell his party has just gone through was entirely of its own making. In short, someone on McDonnell’s front bench was trying to be just a little too clever with … Read more

“As usual, few things are as unreliable as Obama’s speeches and rhetoric…”

At the Big G’s Comment is Free, Glenn Greenwald follows up on his excellent analysis of US President Barack Obama’s recent ‘war on terror’ speech to focus in on one of those domestic political problems I mentioned – “the serious threat posed by the Obama administration to press freedoms”.  From Glenn Greenwald’s post Outside of the most hardened Obama media loyalists, it’s virtually impossible to find any defenses or even offers of excuses or mitigation for what the Obama administration has been doing … Read more

SDLP: “Absolutely none of our MLAs will be putting their name to a petition of concern.”

There seems to have been a hardening the party line/whip in the last 24 hours. But even though Steven Agnew of the Greens has ruled out his support Sinn Fein have not given up hope of getting a backing for a petition of concern (they only need one more MLA to kill it)… The Green Party’s Steven Agnew MLA said Sinn Fein approached him about it. He opposes the bill too, but also does not approve of using petitions of … Read more

Ann Travers: “a peace and reconciliation centre where they expect victims of crime to go to in a prison”

Ann Travers was interviewed today by David McCann and Kerri Dunn, presenters of the weekly On the Record politics show that is broadcast on Lisburns 98FM community radio station. You can listen to her interview in two parts. listen to ‘Part 1 of @lisburns98's interview with @AnnTravers2 by @KerriDunn & @dmcbfs’ on Audioboo listen to ‘Part 2 of @lisburns98's interview with @AnnTravers2 by @KerriDunn & @dmcbfs’ on Audioboo Ann has been at the middle of the process around the SPAD … Read more

“…no amount of conflict transformation rhetoric can plaster over the bloodied past”

Guesting on Eamonn Mallie’s blog, Cillian McGrattan points out that the past is not a good place for Sinn Fein to picking fights. And he also hints that the media and others have been rather too indulgent in the party’s own peculiar doublethink on the past, if for understandable reasons… …indulging the party may stave off the inevitable collapse but unless Sinn Féin begins to articulate a vision of politics based on social responsibility rather than craven self-interest, a vision … Read more

In praise of… Jim Allister

“..there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon…” Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932) The controversy over Jim Allister’s SpAd Bill has thrown a different light upon a settlement that has brought us all certain indisputable benefits. Ironically, the post GFA institutions have had one of their first real fillips from the only resolutely … Read more

#SpAdBill: Positive discrimination favouring the victim over the perpetrator

Ian Paisley last week opened his position on gay marriage on BBC Question Time by saying some would argue he was on the wrong side of history. In yesterday’s BelTel Maire Braniff and Cillian McGrattan made an important argument in favour of the SpAd Bill: The practice of lustration (the exclusion from public office of those associated with former abuses) has been widespread across many divided, post-conflict and post-authoritarian countries. The bill tackles the issue of political patronage and states … Read more

My Top 14 cross-border co-operators in Ireland

Since this is my penultimate ‘Note’ before I stand down as director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies, I am going to use it to nominate my personal Top 14 cross-border co-operators, one for every year since the Centre was founded in 1999. There is no doubt that the pioneers of cross-border cooperation are passing on: some, like the intellectual leader of the movement, Sir George Quigley, and the valiant unionist headmaster from Portadown, Billy Tate, have gone to … Read more

The Second Coming of Paisley by Richard Lawrence Jordan: Book Review

In The Second Coming of Paisley: Militant Fundamentalism and Ulster Politics (Syracuse University Press, 2013), American historian Richard Lawrence Jordan provides us with some insights that are relevant for today – both for understanding the Rev Ian Paisley, and for coming to grips with unionist perspectives on religion and politics. With a title like The Second Coming of Paisley, readers might assume this refers to Paisley’s seeming about-face in 2007, when he became First Minister of Northern Ireland after compelling … Read more

SDLP reminded of the real politics of #SpadBill by its own retired politicians…

So the SDLP will not now launch a petition of concern. Eight days ago, they were firmly set on taking down Jim Allister’s bill. The SDLP press office were briefing over the weekend that there would be no change. So what happened (Alex Attwood’s TV meltdown seems not to have played a part)? Over the weekend Seamus Mallon, the party’s retired former First Minister brought some much needed perspective to the party: Mr Mallon accused the SDLP of “putting two … Read more

“Obama may do things you progressives find distasteful, but at least marvel at how thoughtful and torn up he is about it all…”

With growing domestic political difficulties – the continued fall-out from Benghazi, the IRS caught targeting political opponents, the increased invocation of the 1917 Espionage Act against troublesome journalists, to name but three issues – US President Barack Obama is probably looking forward to his short June break at Lough Erne.  In the meantime, though, take the time to read Glenn Greenwald’s excellent analysis of Obama’s recent ‘war on terror’ speech.  From Glenn Greenwald’s post But whatever else is true, what should … Read more

@rustyrockets on #Woolwich

Superb piece of writing from Russell Brand on his blog reflecting on his own response to the killing of Drummer Lee Digby in Woolwich, social media and how to respond to it. Set aside whatever preconceptions you might have based on Brand’s comedy or acting or writings and give it a proper read. Brand walks through his own response on Twitter, the reaction to it, and his need to return to it in a more meaningful way in the blog. … Read more

England Football: “What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, understanding (er, and intelligent surrender)?”

Mark Perryman, who runs Philosophy Football has an interesting argument on a latter day tradition at England football matches. In advance of this week’s England v Republic of Ireland at Wembley he notes: For as long as I’ve been a travelling England fan (my first game was Moldova away in 1996), a decent proportion of England fans have used the musical pause after the third line of God Save the Queen to insert “No Surrender” with as much volume and … Read more

Reconciliation without truth is the new game in town. But will anyone play?

Steven McCaffrey reports on a new proposals from Mitchel McLaughlin, in which dealing with the past he suggests be detached from the idea of truth: The party’s Mitchel Mclaughlin said republicans would prefer a South African style `truth and reconciliation’ commission, but now accepted that splitting the two elements into a twin-track process could help deliver swifter progress on reconciliation, given the deadlock on the past. A prominent victims’ group however said that putting reconciliation before establishing the facts of … Read more

A Lions tour – predict the first test team please.

So it was just a bad dream for Rory Best – in the Lions squad…and I reckon a test starter. How about the other 14? Rules are simple. I need the names of the fifteen starters in the first test on June 22nd. 1 point for every correct name. Here’s my guess: 15 Halfpenny 14 Bowe 13 Roberts 12 O’Driscoll 11 North 10 Sexton 9 Phillips 8 Faletau 7 Warburton 6 Lydiate 5 O’Connell 4 AW Jones 3 A Jones 2 … Read more

Harry Fitzsimons arrested in Senegal

As the BBC reports A west Belfast man has been arrested in Senegal in west Africa. It is understood Harry Fitzsimons was detained in the capital Dakar last month. Earlier this year Italian police issued an arrest warrant for Mr Fitzsimons in connection with an alleged mafia money-laundering operation in Calabria in Italy. The report also notes that the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin has confirmed his detention and is providing consular assistance to Mr Fitzsimons. When news broke, on … Read more

Derry proposals for Colombian peace

20130426 INCORE Colombia

In September 2012, peace talks were announced between the Colombian Government and the guerrilla group FARC. There have been several rounds of negotiation, now taking place in Havana, Cuba. INCORE at the University of Ulster saw a potential in investigating the lessons, good and bad, from the Northern Ireland peace process, in this 15th anniversary year of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. A three-day roundtable event was held 26-28 April in Derry-Londonderry, which included experts (politicians, scholars and journalists) from Colombia … Read more

ODI: Ireland v Pakistan

A four from the last ball of the game by Kevin O’Brien saw Ireland secure a draw in Thursday’s rain affected One-Day International against Pakistan [Duckworth-Lewis applied].  Ireland’s 275 for 5 included 103 runs from 107 balls by Paul “that kid is a freak” Stirling.  Going into today’s second ODI in the two game series, Ireland were confident of an upset against the test match playing Pakistan.  Put in to bat, Ireland made a defendable 229 for 9.  And they’ve picked up some early Pakistan wickets with the … Read more

Paisley, Question Time & Keeping up with the Jones’

Ian Paisley Jnr has caused a bit of a storm following his appearance on BBC Question Time earlier this week. His views on gay marriage (video clip here) provoked a twitter backlash (featured in yesterday’s Irish News) and led to several on air clashes with fellow contributors and members of the audience. What Paisley Junior had to say was nothing new to people living here, but the British audience of the programme will not have been used to hearing the … Read more

UK City of Culture rocks for Radio 1 Big Weekend

  I’ve  just been watching the video stream of Day Two of the Radio 1 Big Weekend in Derry for a few hours, on and off. (I fess up. My daughter is an executive producer of the event.  For variety during the cultural initiation I opened up other windows to sound off in Slugger about political reform; that explains it ). That said  the event  won me over. It  looks great, terrifically well staged, well filmed, good sound and really charged  on video stream. … Read more