Russian special forces caught red handed on camera

Russia continues to deny that it has armed forces in Crimea, but it was only a matter of time before someone slipped up. Not only do the mysterious “self-defence forces” use Russian guns, uniforms and vehicles (complete with Russian military number plates) but at least one of them has forgotten to take all the identifying labels off his army uniform (Russian language original), leading to a social media profile naming his special forces unit. Of course Putin doesn’t expect us … Read more

“Lacking genuine political competition, public administration in newly pacified nations is often a mess.”

The Economist has an interesting article about civil conflicts. It doesn’t mention NI, but one paragraph in particular caught my eye: One reason for backsliding is that peace often fails to bring the prosperity that might give it lasting value to all sides. Power-sharing creates weak governments; nobody trusts anyone else enough to grant them real power. Poor administration hobbles business. Ethnic mafias become entrenched. Integration is postponed indefinitely. Lacking genuine political competition, with no possibility of decisive electoral victories, … Read more

How can I trust you if you don’t want my vote?

Politicians are often castigated for appearing to put reelection before principle, for lusting after votes rather than doing what’s best for the country. Sometimes this may be justified, but the lust for votes is not necessarily a bad thing. We should be more worried when politicians stop caring about our votes, because then we have no power over them. The only true power that the electorate has over its elected representatives is the power to hire and fire. ‘Kick the … Read more

The moment of quickening

Patsy McGarry has an interesting article in the Irish Times today on the surprisingly fluid nature of the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion: … some of the church’s greatest teachers and saints believed no homicide was involved if abortion took place before the foetus was infused with a soul, known as “ensoulment”. This was believed to occur at “quickening”, when the mother detected the child move for the first time in her womb. In 1591, Pope Gregory XIV determined it … Read more

A historic vote just took place in the USA. Oh, and Obama won too…

I’ve no idea how this flew under the radar, but the outside world (bar the BBC) has largely ignored the most historic American plebiscite since the 1950s. Obama’s re-election, important though it is in itself, might find itself eclipsed by what just took place in Puerto Rico – a clear popular vote in favour of statehood. If ratified by Congress (there is bipartisan support for the idea, although getting it though today’s cantankerous House may be tricky), PR will become … Read more

“Just following orders”: SF Ministers are subordinate to their own command structure

Tuesday night’s Spotlight on the killing of Mary Travers was indeed fascinating, not so much for the story of the ambush itself – although I had never seen the family members speak on camera before, and their continuing suffering was palpable – but for its insights into the inner workings of Sinn Féin. SF’s arrogant attitude towards journalists is well-known (how dare they ask impertinent questions!), but it was the juxtaposition of Carál Ní Chuilín’s bad-tempered interview and her relationship … Read more

The Assembly’s looming crisis of legitimacy

For me, the second most interesting result from the last General Election (after Long’s defeat of Robinson, of course) was the turnout figure. 57% is a far cry from the 70% turnout at the first Assembly election. Although a turnout of 57% would be considered respectable for, say, Scottish Parliament elections, hyper-political NI can’t be judged by the same yardstick. Apathy amongst the younger generation could explain a gradual decline towards the levels of political engagement seen elsewhere, but the … Read more

The Maori and the Pakeha: Why can’t it work for us?

I recently had the pleasure of visiting New Zealand, and was quietly impressed by the way in which the minority Maori culture has been embraced by the majority Pakeha (i.e. white) population. That is not to say that NZ is blissfully free of ethnic tension, but such tensions seem to revolve around affirmative action and guaranteed representation rather than a cultural gap. This is exemplified by the extensive Maori carvings that decorate Auckland airport – at one point just past immigration … Read more