From lawyers to Haass. No truth recovery without a conditional amnesty

Following the historians’ pitch from Arkiv, it’s the turn of the lawyers.  Prof Kieran McEvoy in the Irish Times makes the case I agree with, for a conditional amnesty as part of truth recovery.   He makes the telling point that the historical cases review is unlikely to lead to more than a handful of prosecutions. Even if the number was greater than expected, is it worth going through the long and chancy process for the sake of a nominal two … Read more

Soapbox: A conflict of interest in CCEA’s dual role in education?

By Niall Boyd and Chris Colvin Intentionally or by accident of history, England’s secondary-level education examination system operates as a quasi-market. Ofqual, the government’s regulator, sets down a national curriculum. A host of competing examination boards then set tests that examine this curriculum in subtly different ways. While universities do not tend to differentiate between school-leavers with different boards’ examinations behind them, some boards are nevertheless perceived by teachers to be easier for certain subjects than others, or at least more appropriate for the type of student they teach. Schools choose … Read more

Time for political nationalism to ‘man up’ on law and order?

There are no end of northern nationalists prepared to resort to law when it suits their cause. Equality laws for instance provide a ready stick to beat the backwoods men of the DUP when it comes to some socially conservative policy.  Yet so far only a nationalist minister, Conor Murphy, has been brought to book for actual discrimination in an administration which is getting more and more obsessive (and inventive when the need arises) with a need to preserve public … Read more

“People are being treated differently in NI because of their sexual orientation & that cannot be acceptable”

After a long period of reflection and internal discussion The Equality Commission today published a policy document on Promoting Sexual Orientation Equality: Priorities and Recommendations. The Chief Commissioner Michael Wardlow said: People are being treated differently in Northern Ireland because of their sexual orientation and that cannot be acceptable in the 21st century. In summary, the paper “recommends that legislation should be introduced to permit same sex marriage and adoption and that a ban on blood donations from any group, … Read more

From Arkiv to Haaas. A way out of the deadlock for dealing with the past

  It’s heart warming to find  some of the ideas I’ve been grappling with being taken forward with real authority and integrity. As reported in the Newsletter  a  firm and positive set of  proposals for dealing with the past has been submitted to the Haass talks by a group of historians calling themselves Arkiv. The idea that dealing with the past is a task that can be agreed and dispatched within a given period is not simply an insult to the … Read more

BBC Spotlight on how the peace process continues to cover for the ‘bad’ UVF

Spotlight last night, if you missed it, is well worth a catch up.  Ostensibly about the resurgence of the UVF, particularly in east Belfast, in the process it also exposed some of those poisonous foundations of the Peace Process™ era. Stephen Dempster claims he spoke to two dozen people all of whom were too afraid to talk on camera about the influence of the UVF in Belfast. Men with guns or access to guns tend to be uncompromising with their critics. … Read more

The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there #spotlightNI

If you have not watched last night’s Spotlight programme I would strongly urge you to do so. In our drive to project a modern and peaceful Northern Ireland, we sometimes forget about some of the criminality that still plagues our province. Stephen Dempster’s report leaves a lot of questions for the PSNI, politicians and the rest of civic society to answer. 15 years on from the Good Friday Agreement we still have not fully taken the gun out of our … Read more

Liam Adams his brother and the real damage to his party

A roughly scrawled graffito has appeared in Beechmount Avenue in the Falls area of Belfast, which reads: ”Gerry tell the truth?” It’s a rare public challenge to the hegemony of Sinn Fein’s power base. The party hold five out of the six Assembly seats in West Belfast. It sits around the corner from one of the youth clubs Gerry Adams’ brother Liam worked in for a total of seven years from 1998, until about the time Liam’s daughter Áine restarted a … Read more

Post Troubles Derry cheer on Grayson Perry. There is another world

  As an occasional live attender  in the past, for me this was a first for the BBC’s Reith Lectures, normally an austere and rather forbidding event.  Whoops, cheers and whistles greeted the cross dressing artist and potter Grayson Perry in Londonderry Guildhall for the third in this year’s series, Nice Rebellion Welcome in!  (text pending on website.) No, not that sort of rebellion but how claims that art is rebellious and original are easily subverted by the lure of commerce and … Read more

Shankill bomb: As the fog of war lifts welcome to the hall of smoke and mirrors

In all the understandable controlled angry over destruction the Shankill bomb wrought, both on the day and the weeks after, Anthony McIntyre, then an IRA volunteer, reminds people his organisation was on a war footing at the time, and no amount of hindsight can change the circumstances under which Kelly and Begley planted that ill fated bomb: Wax ethical and sigh at the terrible loss of life, as we might today, three quarters of we who came through the ranks … Read more

“an unforgettable journey across the Red Planet.”

Curiosity may have been on the surface of Mars for over a year, but ESA’s Mars Express has been in orbit around the Red Planet for almost a decade.  It’s one of a number of ways Mars is being observed, up close and personal.  And, like the Hi-RISE camera on Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Express has some specialised instruments on-board for that purpose.  Among them is the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC).  The stunning 3D images in this video were taken by that camera.   The video was released … Read more

(UPDATED) How will the Irish Govt. respond to NSA spying?

(Update below) This would be different… The Irish govt. takes its citizens’ right to privacy extremely seriously; consequently, we have requested a full explanation from the United States… But let’s speak plainly: As a friend and partner of the US, we, like many other countries who expect and rely on the United States taking on the burden of global leadership, cannot expect to enjoy the benefits of that leadership without being more realistic about what it requires. The emerging revelation … Read more

Westminster not Stormont has the power to answer the collusion charges and should use it

When Alastair Campbell issues a warning people should sit up and take notice, even today. You do get this sense across the spectrum that it is not a priority. They have got to be careful about that. “[John] Major made it a priority, Blair made it an absolute priority. He was like a dog with a bone. I do get a sense that it is not on the current government’s radar. British policy on Northern Ireland is to stay as … Read more

With all this regressive hyperbole about NI’s past, is it time for a new sustainable narrative?

Good piece from Tom Kelly in the Irish News this morning, which subtly identifies the problem with the exaggerated claims of recent stories in the media. At a time when voter registration is falling right across the board, it’s an impoverished narrative to be offering voters who are already switching off from Stormont in droves. He tops out his analysis with a reference to the enormously useful pre publicity Gerry Kelly’s been getting on the 1983 break out from the Maze … Read more

Lou Reed 1942-2013

Just a quick post to mark the death of founding member of The Velvet Underground, inspiration for 10,000 bands – see Brian Eno quote – singer, songwriter and general rock legend, Lou Reed, who has died of an unspecified “liver-related ailment”.  He had a liver transplant in May this year after suffering liver failure. At the Guardian’s Music Blog Michael Hann does a great job of listing “Five rock themes we owe to his work“.  And, separately, Sean O’Hagan collates “Six … Read more

Do we really have the happiest places in the UK or are we just too easily pleased?

Lies, damn lies and subeditors.. Same as last year. ?  Does Northern Ireland really boast the happiest places in the UK? So the past is  over and done with, right?  Maybe we’d better look a bit deeper… Jenny McCartney the rather fierce daughter of the fierce Bob QC, ex MP, in her Telegraph  column gives away the secret of life if you’ve been reared in the Gold Coast. Northern Ireland is pleasantly empty if you’re not set among the huddled masses and can drive quickly past … Read more

DUP-are they really the voice of Unionism?

This piece is a bit delayed but rounding off the party analyses of the four major parties I present to you the electoral performance of the DUP over the past 15 years. Instead of focusing on gains that the party has made over the last number of years I thought I would take a look at the DUP’s constant charge that they are the true voice of Unionism. But before I go into the numbers I will briefly run through … Read more

Obsessing over history and identity won’t educate our kids or bring them closer together

Forgive me if I take advantage of my posting rights to reply to Andy Pollak’s interesting post on  cross border exchanges  in education and go on to  widen the issue.  Much closer cooperation is a no brainer. What’s stopping  it?  The introverted pressures of financial austerity? Preoccupation with different systems and problems N&S?  Might it be seen – wrongly  –  as a pleasant optional extra rather than a significant contribution? Fifteen years since the GFA fundamental questions  need to be revisited. … Read more

Platform for Change debating Haass/O’Sullivan agenda (Mon 25 Nov); East Belfast Speaks Out (Wed 27 Nov)

The last week of November is shaping up to be a week of political hustings and community discussions. Looking towards the final stages of the Haass/O’Sullivan talks, Platform for Change are hosting a panel discussion in Dukes at Queens (aka, Dukes Hotel) on Monday 25 November from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Previous events this year have explored flags (with a remarkable inclusive panel) and education. This time the panel tackling the agenda of the political talks and is appallingly titled: Parades, … Read more