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