@LADFLEG: “We are pro-Union and pro Loyalist”

Last week I sat down with two of the brains behind Loyalists Against Democracy (LAD), Billy and Ron. I was interested to catch up with the guys since we last spoke in February about the group’s foundation and how they approach certain issues. This time, however, I was interested to speak to them about some of the issues that they group has been involved in since we spoke, namely; the departure of Winston Smith, Pastor McConnell and where does LAD … Read more

Xchange Summer School – changing the conversation about … the arts #xss14

It turns out that it doesn’t always rain in Enniskillen! From Thursday to Saturday, Xchange’s inaugural summer school enjoyed balmy weather in and around the Ardhowen theatre as delegates chatted, ate, drank, debated and challenged each other’s views on the arts, the media, liberties and history. Chaired by Denzil McDaniel, the opening session asked whether we could change the conversation about the arts. Actor Adrian Dunbar welcomed the delegates to his own town. The theatre is everybody’s home. It’s not … Read more

#IndyRef: Orangemen and what they are represent a dose of scrofulous reality

I’m not sure Kevin McKenna’s experience of Referendum hustings is representative of the whole. The Yes campaign in particular seem to be reaching out in parts right across the vast swathe of land that is Scotland. But he makes a pertinent point about just how unwilling, or unable the country’s political elites are to deal with people who cannot be classed as white, middle class or liberal. Like for instance, the Orange Order: I’ve attended a few referendum gatherings and … Read more

Cameron’s EU defeat: maybe De Gaulle was right all along

David Cameron’s failure to defeat the candidature of Jean-Claude Juncker has been variously described as a humiliation, a catastrophe for Britain, and an example of Cameron’s principle and European leaders cowardice. The Guardian’s Toby Helm has possibly the best analysis of what actually happened, why and how. It seems relatively few EU leaders were keen on Mr. Juncker’s appointment and that there was annoyance at a minor political coup by the EU parliament claiming that the result of the elections … Read more

Peter Hain: “since I was running the place I could more or less do what I wanted to do…”

The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland [and Wales, etc! – Ed], Peter Hain, has been reminiscing about the good old days… “When I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 2005-07, [Prince Charles] was delighted when I told him that since I was running the place I could more or less do what I wanted to do. “I was able to introduce a trial for complementary medicine on the NHS, and it had spectacularly good results, that … Read more

Graduation time: What comes next?

So, you’ve completed your degree and have been awarded (hopefully) a good classification. When I was receiving my degree four years ago, I remember reading an awful article in the Telegraph telling me that my year was about to go into the worst job market for 20 years with three hundred thousand graduates competing for around thirty thousand jobs. Fast forward to 2014, the economy is beginning to pick back up but there are still challenges and pit falls for … Read more

If polluting the environment is bad, what about polluting young minds?

The Ballymena Times is reporting that loyalist leaders and Unionist political representatives have met to agree a code of conduct for bonfires in the greater Ballymena area. One Protestant clergyman in the Ballymena area, John F.A. Bond, the Dean of Connor and Rector of St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Broughshane,has written to the Grand Lodge of Ireland asking them to “issue a statement to ban all tyres and furniture that are known to emit toxic fumes at bonfires on the … Read more

World Cup stats for our football aficionados

The five World Cups since 1998 (including 2014) have involved 32 international teams who qualified through their respective confederations. Examining the performances of the representatives of the differing international continent-based confederations allows us to look at how competitive the differing regions have been. Key Statistics: Escaping the Group Stage Europe (UEFA) has seen only 6 of its 13 sides qualify for the 2nd Round in each of the last two World Cups (2010 and 2014.) Before that, 10 sides made … Read more

Sarajevo, 28 June 1914

These are two photographs, taken in roughly 1914, of the building known to history as Schiller's bakery (which was really more of a delicatessen) on the corner of what are now Green Berets Street and Prince Kulin Quay in Sarajevo, formerly Franz Josef Street and Appel Quay (43.85791 N, 18.42892 E if you want to check it out for yourself). The second picture is taken from the end of the Latin Bridge, behind the photographer. This was the place where … Read more

OFMdFM “operating on a day-to-day basis, in the same way a chameleon changes its colour, reacting to its environment…”

Dr Cathy Gormley-Heenan on the View last night, description of the two old Crumlin Road lags currently in possession of the Scottish Baronial splendor that is Stormont Castle (that’s OFMdFM to you and me): “They are very reactive to the temperature, the environment, the circumstances in which they are operating on a day-to-day basis, in the same way a chameleon changes its colour, reacting to its environment. If it is is unnerved or under pressure, it suddenly changes the way … Read more

O’Dowd banking on Donegal students to keep tiny border secondary off ‘the green mile…’?

So good news for the people of Belleek. St Mary’s High School in Brollagh, near the village on the Fermanagh border have a reprieve from closure. The tiny secondary school has just 121 students, and attracts about half the pupils transferring from nearby primary schools. From the BBC report: Simon Bradley, the acting principal of the school, said the news it would not be closed came as a shock. “I think, like most people within the education community, were quite stunned … Read more

#Baggott: PSNI should *no longer* be accountable

Matt Baggott is pretty much leaving the PSNI in the same way as he joined in 2009. At that time, he was being pressed by the Coroner John Leckey to release files on shoot-to-kill cases from 1982 so that inquests could be held. His predecessor, Hugh Orde had been ignoring a similar request since 2007. At the time, the PSNI released a statement saying: The PSNI wishes to re-emphasise its willingness to co-operate fully with the coroner and continues to … Read more

Cameron and the EU: What’s good for business versus the democratic deficit?

So the EU leaders meet today, and it surely has to say something Jean Claude Juncker seems already confident of getting the job of President of the European Commission. For those who don’t know, Jean Claude is that Luxembourger geezer with the dodgy line in what happens when things get serious. And that’s not even mentioning his past “entanglement in Luxembourg intelligence affairs”. The odd thing is not just Cameron’s obvious distain for playing the European game (given this has been … Read more

A blow for Basil as Lagan Valley NI21 Executive hand in their badges + NI21’s QUB Exec too

Basil McCrea will once again be without an effective constituency organisation in Lagan Valley. This evening the executive of his local NI21 constituency group have all resigned from the faltering party. [David Cairns, chair of the LV Exec remains.] It’s a pretty bad show of confidence when the party leader’s local group desert him … though given the lack of meaningful communication during the drawn out crisis, it is hardly surprising. Local NI21 councillor Johnny McCarthy wasn’t on the Lagan … Read more

The problem is not a weak parades commission, it’s our politics..

Fascinating. Liam Clarke nails something vital here: ….the only way through the marching season is for Parades Commission decisions to be honoured and enforced by the police. That is the message we need from politicians and, if they don’t like the situation, the answer is in their own hands. They have spent years trying to agree an alternative means of regulating the very small number of disputed parades which blight each summer here. Their failure is the backdrop to the … Read more

Scotland’s Choice: Reshaping Relationships #qubindyref … and a Federal UK pitch from Tory MSP Murdo Fraser

Whatever the outcome, the referendum on Scottish independence on 18 September will have a profound significance for relationships spanning Britain and Ireland. That was the assertion at a one-day conference organised through the Political Studies Association and Queen’s University Belfast today. In his opening lecture “Tangled Histories” Prof Graham Walker (QUB) unravelled some of the historical narrative and timeline of the British Isles and Scotland’s place within the Union. Irish partition and Ulster unionism had a major impact on Scotland. … Read more

Micheal Martin’s strength is his early adaption to FF’s changed circumstances

So, Brian Crowley has gone his own way. Choosing a political grouping that contained the British Conservative party was eccentric and perhaps eccentric enough to mute any widespread criticism of Micheal Martin within the wider party. In the Irish Times Mary Minihan makes a brief assay of where the party is. She makes an important point here: Unlike some of his egotistical lieutenants, Mr Martin was an early-adaptor, absorbing the scale and shock of seat losses incurred in 2011 and understanding … Read more

“We need a politics of recognition not identities”: Professor Rick Wilford

“We need a politics of recognition not identities”: Professor Rick Wilford Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings 17 June 2014 As part of his retirement from Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Rick Wilford was invited to present a lecture: “Two cheers for consociational democracy?” The Senate Chamber of Parliament Buildings provided a most appropriate setting for his review of the structures and operations of Northern Ireland’s government since the return of devolved administration with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The Speaker of the … Read more

NI21 is here and here to stay, no matter what form it may take. Let no-one make any mistake about that.

Tommy Maguire who is a member of NI21 writes for Slugger about his belief that there is still a bright future for the party What I am going to write is my opinion alone, not NI21’s, and I certainly do not speak on behalf of any individual member other than myself. NI21 is not about the two leaders. Listen, does anyone join any political party because of who is leading them? Surely that in itself is a flawed logic, leadership … Read more

“Now meetings seem almost routine and we have dispensed with the fig leaf…”

Like boiling a frog…  After the party’s opposition to her first truly historic official visit to Ireland, this week, on the third occasion of the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s forgetful Martin McGuinness, being presented to the UK Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, the earlier pretence has finally been dropped.  As Liam Clarke notes in the Belfast Telegraph In another sense, the Queen and Martin McGuinness may look back on how difficult that first meeting between them had been … Read more