Republican Castlederg parade: the insensitivity of the impotent

West Tyrone Sinn Fein’s strategy over the 11th August parade in Castlederg has been progressing according to a fairly well worn formula. Initially the annual event was announced at the spot where the volunteers Seamus Harvey and Gerard McGlynn were killed 40 years ago on active service. (translation IRA terrorists blew themselves up with their own bomb). Then following the predictable outcry which Sinn Fein apparently without irony have blamed on unionist politicians the parade has been rerouted to avoid … Read more

“In a major shift, Sinn Fein wants to offer all schools the right to be the employers…”

Now this IS interesting, from a policy point of view at least. There’s been a bit of a power struggle going on over the precise shape of the education and schools authority (ESA) over the last couple of years between the Minister and Northern Ireland’s Grammar schools. That’s one reason the project has been long fingered for so long. A recruiting ban in the old boards – which have been left to carry the burden of the long delay – has … Read more

Seanad Referendum: It’s about the economy, stupid!

Here Patricia MacBride responds to an emerging debate over the future of Seanad Eireann that was in full flow at the MacGill Summer School last night. Now that the Seanad Referendum Bill has been signed by the Minister, it’s all about balance in the debate from here on in, right? Well no – not really. The government parties are in favour of abolishing the Seanad and have recently been joined by Sinn Féin on the ‘Yes’ side, leaving Fianna Fáil … Read more

An Ynys Môn by-election – a psephologist’s dream.

Tomorrow sees an Assembly by-election in Ynys Môn as Ieuan Wyn Jones seeks pastures new. (from the BBC). I won’t dream of predicting the result as Anglesey people taught thrawn to you lot… There’s only one rule that the islanders follow. Once elected you only lose by retiring, dying or being thrown in clink…. Here’s the list of UK Parliament MPS since the war: 1929 – 51 Megan Lloyd George Liberal 1951 – 1979 Cledwyn Hughes Labour (the exception to … Read more

Vision for Belfast unveiled by Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir who promises to “remain relentlessly positive” about the city this year

When Máirtín Ó Muilleoir returned to Belfast City Council after an absence of fourteen years he must have hoped that it would be a changed place. His book – Belfast’s Dome of Delight – documents his journey as the “novice ambassador from the independent republic of Anderstown” to the council chamber as the nationalist (and in particular Sinn Fein) presence on the council grew. Sinn Fein’s offices in the council were bombed by the UVF in May 1994. The election … Read more

10 things that political unionists get wrong…

From our good friend and diligent commenter, Am Gobsmacht… Choosing ramdonly, here’s number four on the list, living in denial… Everyone knows that Northern Ireland needs the Catholic vote to survive. But the people who can make a difference such as the Loyalist bands, the Orange Order and indeed the IFA (see above) do nothing about it. Feel free to make a suggestion but be prepared to be told why they can’t (won’t) do anything till Sinn Fein do something. … Read more

Caption Competition

Alex Kane quoted a Sinn Fein associate in the News Letter: We can always rely on unionist disarray or paranoia to help us out. And then we can remember Mitchel McLaughlin’s “faux pas of the month” back in 2006: … asked to explain exactly what Sinn Féin had achieved for its supporters, media-disaster Mitchel spluttered for a moment before blurting out: “The degree of uncertainty and the lack of confidence in the unionist community!” Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, … Read more

How Stands the Republic? Grim verdicts at the MacGill summer school

  During a visit to tropical Donegal a couple of weeks ago I picked up from Johnny Boyle in the Highlands Hotel this year’s programme for the Patrick MacGill summer school in Glenties, now just under way.  Instead of the usual summer school  diet of history, literature and nostalgia, for several years now,  in the programme’s own words –  “ especially since the sudden and brutal fall of the Celtic Tiger, the MacGill School has focused on reform of the … Read more

TDs that tweet – who, when and how

In an unexpected follow-up to last night’s post about tweeting MPs and MLAs … When they’re not in the Dáil or attending wake houses working on constituency issues, many TDs are busy twiddling their thumbs tweeting. Earlier today Eamonn Bell published an infographic that summarises the messaging habits of TDs. Eamonn’s number crunching (at the bottom of the infographic) goes beyond mere adoption figures and points to how TDs are exploiting the service (levels of retweets and use of hashtags) … Read more

Party funding: NI Parties still making it up as they go along?

Party donations, eh? We have an exception to the general rule in Northern Ireland. The logic of a recent debate in the Commons was to bring NI into line with the rest of the UK such that donors of more than £7,500 are made publicly available. It failed, much to the apparent puzzlement of some English MPs. The SDLP insisted that it should go ahead, just so long as the anonymity of southern Irish (and by extension, international) donors were left … Read more

MPs with a slim majority are more likely to tweet: crunching numbers of tweeting elected representatives

Democratic Audit UK today posted a summary of results of research by James Donald who has been looking at the tweeting characteristics of Westminster MPs. It made me wonder about our local politicians. But first, the highlights from the UK-wide findings. Nearly 63% of MPs (408) had Twitter accounts in January 2013, while 37% were still abstaining. (Today, Tweetminster suggests the figure has risen marginally!) The findings showed that the younger an MP is, the more likely she/he is to … Read more

What’s driving this animus against Suffolk Protestants?

Interesting developments at the Suffolk/Lenadoon interface, where a crowd of up 100 Catholic youths was reported to have attacked the tiny Protestant enclave in west Belfast. This follows a petrol bomb attack in June on the same community. The incident brought this from local Sinn Féin councillor Matt Garrett: “There are people working hard at the Blacks Road/Lenadoon/Suffolk interface to make sure that residents can get on with their lives free from this type of behaviour. It is not representative … Read more

First the Independent and now the i withdraws from Ireland, north and south

Exactly thirteen months after The Independent withdrew from the island it will be the turn of its baby sister, the i. The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade reported this afternoon what the Irish News reported earlier: Independent Print has decided to stop distributing copies of The Independent’s little sister, i, in Ireland. Newsagents have been told that the issues of the i on 2 August will be the final ones available for sale in both the north of Ireland and the Republic. … Read more

Could a shared space be capable of addressing the value of our separate identities?

I got an emailed press release from the local Tory press office this morning with a statement from my old friend Trevor Ringland. It highlights a parade in in the mixed town of Castlederg: Castlederg was affected particularly badly by the IRA’s campaign of murder and this parade seems to ignore completely its deeply sectarian nature.”, Trevor remarked.   “For the future of everyone in Northern Ireland, we must challenge any group which wants to promote, glorify or justify the unlawful, illegal acts … Read more

When Alex met Nigel – interview with UKIP leader

Alex Kane interviewed Nigel Farage a couple of weeks ago when he was over meeting the UKIP faithful in the Stormont Hotel. There’s a lot of background noise, but the interview – broadcast today on Lisburn’s 98FM On the Record politics show – will give you a flavour of the David McNarry’s boss and his party. listen to ‘Interview with @Nigel_Farage by @AlexKane221b earlier this month for @Lisburns98 community radio’ on Audioboo When asked his reaction to being described as … Read more

Local party finances revealed as Electoral Commission publish statement of accounts

The Electoral Commission have now published details about the 2012 accounts for all local political parties. Smaller parties with income and expenditure less than £250k were released in May and the larger parties today. This is a quick post to highlight the numbers with a variety of charts. I’ll leave it to others to start to tell the stories behind the figures … perhaps starting with the size of Sinn Féin’s legal fees and the continued lack of transparency around … Read more

New media is forcing politicians to engage (and the way we will do politics to change)

So the Oireachtas report on the Growth of Social Media and tackling Cyberbullying has gone for a sensible approach to the issue of the internet and cyberbullying. Karlin Lillington in the Irish Times contrasts a measured report with a sometimes hysterical reaction in parliament: One of the more ludicrous sideshows in the online bullying debate surrounding the Oireachtas hearings and submissions and the consequent report, however, was the regularity with which politicians made the story all about them. They too, … Read more

“Is sectarianism a problem? Yes. Does it cripple Scotland? No.”

Alex Massie at Think Scotland, has doubts about how Scotland’s government is trying to tackle sectarianism. Not the least the ushering in of a new invasive form of ‘thought policing’… It is right and proper and necessary that religiously-motivated discrimination be outlawed in the public realm but government lacks either the means or the right to criminalise private thoughts or prejudices. Even, perhaps especially, when those thoughts or prejudices are ugly or inconvenient. The government should not be in the … Read more

“There’s no place like home…”

I didn’t ‘Wave at Saturn’ on 19 July when the Cassini probe, orbiting the gas giant, was taking a high-definition image of the view back home.  I don’t think it encouraged a proper sense of perspective…  But the resultant image is stunning. [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute] It’s not the first time Cassini has looked home.  Nor is it the only stunning image the probe has provided.  But, as those involved pointed out “We can’t see individual continents or people in this … Read more

Belief in Scottish independence may see nationalism outperform current poll ratings…

Kevin Toolis provides a fascinating take (h/t John at Nuzhound) on the quiet unionist syndrome noted here yesterday when he looks to Northern Ireland for lessons to draw for Scotland which will in the Autumn time begin to pick up speed in the run to an election… For its adherents Nationalism, he notes, “possesses an intrinsic moral good” which “trumped all personal sacrifice..” …Whatever the polls say, the Yes believers are likely to turn out in far greater numbers to vote as … Read more