Irish government throws pebble into the stream

It’s beyond general comment so I won’t even try. But can anybody tell me why in this turmoil the US Congress has to rise for the two days of the Jewish New Year? Irish government guarantees for deposits seems to have lifted stocks in Dublin for the moment but it can only be a pebble in the stream. Nor are all Irish Banks Irish as the Irish Times reminds us. “The measure does not extend to deposits or debts in … Read more

Northern Ireland sitting on its public sector cushion, isn’t immune unfortunately…

The financial crisis has exposed a big area of weakness in Northern Ireland’s post-Troubles’ resources-strapped journalism (except for the BBC)– economic coverage, unless it’s about business handouts or purely about the impact on people’s pockets. This mean fears and anxieties can be inflated and people can be caught unprepared. Less scrappy reporting and more consistent context and background are badly needed but I see little prospect of it happening. Somebody on the Irish Times business newsdesk obviously felt the need … Read more

“Revived IRA” still in business. What are we to make of it?

I’ve been in the news business for more years than I care to remember but I still can’t be sure which stories take off and which stay firmly on the ground. Sunday newspapers like the old Sunday News were often vehicles of choice for stories that were flyers for internal squabbles, loyalist v loyalist or republican fragmentation of one kind or another, often extremely nasty. I wonder if we’re seeing a similar phenomenon about the supposedly defunct IRA? I’m too … Read more

First crack in SNP’s facade

Belfast Telegraph columnist Lawrence White has provided inspiration for the first half-convincing counter attack against the SNP since it gained office in Holyrood last year. The ammunition comes from an innocent enough Scottish Policy forum analysis by Prof White of the importance of Scotland’s links with sterling, and the perceived irrelevance of Alex Salmond in spite of much screaming and shouting, to the consequences of the Lloyds-TSB takeover of Halifax-Bank of Scotland last week. Jim Wallace, erstwhile Lib Dem leader … Read more

Celts oppose London’s stance on GM – but for how long?

The three “Celtic” governments have united to oppose UK government plans to ease restrictions on GM cultivation in order to ease catastrophic third world food shortages, says the Independent. This is a bold decision in view of the still substantial size of their agricultural industries. NI’s Sinn Fein agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew got together with the Irish agriculture minister of state Trevor Sargant of the Green party earlier this month to work for a GM – free all Ireland, in … Read more

Obama and MCain flunked the first debate

At least the Americans hold the things. Our leaders duck them pleading “ but we have Prime Minister’s Questions.” The first presidential debate lived down to the time honoured reputation of these events and was a dud. Pity the poor US media who have to analyse every flicker. Even so I still don’t know who won. This was slightly surprising, given the current atmosphere of crisis and the excitement of the earlier campaign. Even with America teetering on the brink … Read more

Recalling Franklin Roosevelt

Latest. As Americans start their day, it’s increasingly clear that the House Republicans are holding out against the Republican President’s bail-out. If Bush and the majority Democrats do a deal over their heads and McCain continues to share Rep qualms, and the deal works, Bush hands the presidency on a plate to Obama. Will tonight’s debate go on? There’s plenty to talk about. In the middle of the bailout deadlock I searched for lines on: “What would FDR do?” And … Read more

UTV part of plan to cut local news

It’s bitterly ironic that at a time when whole new political environments have been created by devolution, that ITV, once the UK’s premier channel and a nationally federated system, is being allowed to slash its regional news output. Local news programming is being sacrificed in a bid to halt the slow death of ITV as we know it. New decisions by the regulator Ofcom allows the company to cut information and other “public service” programmes in a bid to stay … Read more

God’s man attacks Mammon

Is the financial crisis a moral issue? With the politicians even now slow to burn their boats with the money men its been left to the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead with a dignified dose of moral outrage. Even when he picks a more popular theme than sharia, Rowan Williams manages to be more provocative than perhaps he intends. In the Spectator, Dr Williams writes “Face it: Marx was partly right about capitalism.” In the Daily Telegraph Rev George Pitcher … Read more

New cross border life on Lough Foyle

There was a great wee programme on Radio 4’s Open Country today about the revival of life at the head of Lough Foyle. East Ulster folk may not know it, being generally more parochial than us northwesterners, but a transformation has been wrought by the opening of the car ferry service half dozen years ago between Magilligan point and Greencastle. Along with the ferry has come the revival of the three hundred tradition of Foyle punts, the development of mussel … Read more

With the public, Brown cuts Tory lead by half but with his party “civil war” resumes

You might be scratching your head and wondering why Ruth Kelly’s resignation to spend more time with her family has “ reignited Labour’s civil war.” Unnamed ministers point the finger at Downing St for spiking a potential Labour resigner and forestalling others from quitting. Nobody knows if this theory is true or not – not even the Mail’s anti-Brown Ben Brogan – but it certainly has got legs. What a bunch, when the country is teetering on the brink of … Read more

Countdown to breathing space or disaster: Congress decides

Whether you think they’re fighting for crumbs of social justice or fiddling while Rome burns, this is the biggest test most politicians will ever face in their lives. The Executive is not doing well. Bush is playing the role of President. Both presidential candidates are still playing politics. Nobody knows how much the bail-out will cost. According to one our cleverest commentators Anatole Kaletsky in the Times, US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has suddenly switched from White Knight to Darth … Read more

Bad King James may yet have a Catholic successor : a momentous move from Gordon Brown

Now here’s a real constitutional turn-up of the first order in a Guardian exclusive. One of the last ancient acts of discrimination against Roman Catholics is to be repealed – the Act of Settlement of 1707 which barred Catholics from the throne after the little difficulty between King James and King Billy. Up to this moment, this was written off as far too complicated and obscure, while campaigners saw it as a totemic issue at the formal apex of the … Read more

Ryanair latest

” A twenty-minute call could cost as much as your ticket” – Simon Calder, travel editor The Independent. “….calls to and from commercial transport – ships or aircraft – are uncapped, because the capital and running costs tend to be much higher. Ryanair’s inflight phone service will be operated by OnAir, a joint-venture communications company owned by Airbus and the airlines’ telecom provider, Sita. OnAir will charge the passenger’s mobile network a wholesale rate of between £2 and £3 per … Read more

Sir Roger Casement: the complete story

The Times are running from the Times Literary Supplement a sparkling review by Roy Foster of the new biography “Roger Casement” by Seamus O Siochain. In 1916 Casement became a traitor to his past life as a colonial civil servant and a hero to an Ireland about to be born. The author gives equal weight to Casement’s twin diary projects, his chronicling of colonial brutalities and the Black Diaries. It was horror at the contents, once thought to be British … Read more

Lembit would have my vote

Update at 23.30pm “Lembit Opik stands down for Liberal Democrat presidential bid.” So the bastards won. The Liberal Democrat leadership are said to be moving heaven and earth to stop Bangor -born Lembit Opik from capturing the party presidency. Lembit has attracted more labels than any politician I know. The Cheeky tendency for his relationship with Cheeky Girl (“Touch My Bum) Gabriella , the Curse of Lembit for backing leadership candidates who fail – like Mark Oaten for his gay … Read more

Gordon forgot the Scottish angle.. now why was that?

When I’m on about devolution I see it was left to the Times of London to produce the classic piece about how irrelevant Gordon Brown’s leader’s speech was for Scotland, at least in the early internet editions. From Angus Macleod the Times’ Scottish political editor: “Anyone in Glenrothes watching Gordon Brown’s big speech yesterday might have been excused for wondering what it had to do with them. Free universal check-ups for the over-40s? Extension of nursery places? No prescription charges … Read more

Again the Executive is caught out…

On a related theme, The Tele reports: “Brown’s free cancer drugs won’t apply to Northern Ireland. ” Yet another case of Executive paralysis. Even so, why do the masses ranks of the Stormont PR people have to appear so inept? Quote from Executive spokesperson: “Asked if Mr Brown’s crucial speech this afternoon will include proposals that will reach out to the devolved assemblies, an aide said he “was sure it would”, although it is not clear what they might include.. … Read more

Brown has a vision at last

There are times beyond partisanship when it’s important for a leader to succeed and this was one of them. Gordon Brown pulled it off, I think, leaving us with the question: why hadn’t he done it before? After all he had rivalled Tony Blair at previous conferences but rising to the top job seemed to unnerve, even unman him. Perhaps it took the financial crisis to snap him into it. Springing his wife Sarah on the conference to introduce him … Read more