Tower threat to the character of our capitals.

Britain and Ireland are twins in many respects and never more than over what skyscrapers are doing to the historic centres of our capital cities. Simon Jenkins, the newly appointed chair of the National Trust and champion of sensitive planning everywhere is scathing about the threat to World Heritage sites like Westminster from the

Creationism may come to science class

“Treating intelligent design as too obviously simple-minded to merit discussion is a mistake. Creationist beliefs are much more likely to be part of a complex set of related cultural ideas than a simple misconception”. The latest contribution to a Slugger favourite comes from the most august scientific body of all the Royal Society. Rev Michael Reiss, a biologist and RS director of education (his title at both ends of his name gives you a clue to where he’s coming from) … Read more

“We were right to worry about this man”

On Radio 4 tonight a memoir of a great might-have been: Could the Ulster Workers’ Council strike of 1974 have been overcome and the powersharing Executive saved? It turns out that wasn’t the only relevant question, because secretly at the time, the Prime Minister Harold Wilson was planning a British withdrawal, under the fig leaf of Dominion status, in which “Ulstermen would remain subjects of the Queen.” This has since become known but the clincher was produced in the programme, … Read more

Northern Ireland left out in the cold – thanks to the frozen Executive?

It may not be much but it’s a whole lot better than you’re getting in Northern Ireland. Gordon Brown’s winter fuel package will apply to England, Scotland and Wales – but not to our wee Province So, despite having the highest fuel bills in the UK it’s nada on : Free cavity wall and loft insulation for pensioners and poor households 50% off cost of insulation for all households Freeze on this year’s bills for poor consumers Partial reversal of … Read more

Three part solution emerging for Ireland’s Lisbon dilemma

After the mea culpa from the Irish government already noted here , the proposals for a deal on the Lisbon Treaty are ready, according to a French government leak to the Daily Telegraph. Next month Brian Cowen will tell his fellow heads of government that Ireland can’t meet the deadline of next June’s elections to the European Parliament for a second referendum. That’s the bad news. The solution though looks like a good deal if only he can deliver it. … Read more

Aughey prophet of unionism

You remember the phrase “campaign in poetry, govern in prose?” Arthur Aughey professor politics at the University of Ulster is neither quite a campaigner nor a professing poet but he comes close to both as a writer. Aughey is an apologist – that is, an explainer – of the elements not only of Ulster unionism but of what Gordon Brown call “Britishness,”. a far more complex and imaginative entity than is usually discussed along the twisty tramlines of structural analysis … Read more

Service of closure for the Army

I’d never heard of Operation Banner before it ended – it seems somehow diminishing to have the tumultuous experience of 30 years of the Troubles described in one of those curious military labels like “Operation Market Garden” for the Arnhem landings. The military – and that also means thousands in NI connected with the UDR and part-time RIR – have held an official ritual of closure in a commemorative service in St Paul’s Cathedral. For me, this is not the … Read more

Bush, Cheney exposed as never before

Update. Seven men face bomb plot retrial. This is a rare and legally difficult move, entailing the risks of double jeopardy, being tried on the same evidence twice. There’s a long chain linking your tube of toothpaste to al Qaida and it runs through the White House. We have it from Peter Clarke head of Met counter terrorism at the time that it was the big feet of the CIA that wrecked a British intelligence operation to net the whole … Read more

A Slugger agenda for Brown in Belfast

Well now, how about a Slugger’s agenda for Gordon on his visit to Belfast next week? It may be no more than a ritual run round the kingdom, finishing ofF what he started in Birmingham. We can guess that the pre-spin will talk up the economic prospects, and an imminent deal between the DUP and SF – can’t we, just two days before Peter’s deadline?. Or maybe, as we recall what the DUP used to do to deadlines, it’ll only … Read more

An old Irish neuralgia is back

Now here’s one where the Republic really is different from the European mainstream, never mind the UK – neutrality. I can recite the arguments, I know the history but I still can’t fathom its grip on modern Ireland’s consciousness. Pressure from a revived Lisbon Treaty campaign may cause Dublin to opt out of EU security arrangements in Bosnia and the EU sponsored mission to Chad. All because paranoid – or cynical- Lisbon treaty opponents have put the frighteners on mammies … Read more

How an Assembly without absolute “unionist and “nationalist” vetoes could transform the scene

I’m coming back to the discussion following on from Pete’s post and Mark Durkan’s idea of scrapping the unionist, nationalist other designations because I have something new to offer, even after 100 and more comments. Here’s a link to “The Trouble with Northern Ireland” a devastating critique of the political system by the political scientists Robin Wilson and Rick Wilford. They explain exactly how a new system without designations would work while still guaranteeing cross community support. A new threshold … Read more

Autumn curtain raisers to winter of discontent

After a month of gloomy previews the UK’s autumn political season is launched, with Gordon “now it’s personal” Brown going melodramatic and staging a cabinet show in Birmingham rep before the warm-up of the TUC annual conference. The unions are staking much on a revival of a spectacular flop with echoes of Shakespeare, a winter of discontent. For once, the programme notes from the right wing Daily Mail and centre left Mirror are chiming together, yes, it’s that serious. Conservative … Read more

New battle over Belfast skies?

The handsome profit the Spanish firm Ferrovial will net from the sale of George Best city airport is a drop in the ocean compared to the massive debt it acquired by its purchase of BAA including the prize Heathrow. As the Times puts it, “the profitable sale of Belfast may raise Ferrovial’s hopes of generating extra revenue from the BAA sales. This would help to reduce its enormous debt burden, which Ferrovial said last week was 23.1 billion.” It now … Read more

Tartan tax plot thickens

The plot thickens in the Brown v Salmond saga over the new tartan tax. The Times which has offered the most ambitious analyses of the game now sees Brown’s proposal as a move to appease English grumbling at having to shell out £30 billion a year to the Scots while also appearing to accede to Scottish demands for more devolved powers. Simon Jenkins, that vocal champion of local government writing in the Guardian, welcomes the idea of a genuinely local … Read more

Can goverment change old habits and give up control? Insights on govenment on the web

Repeating Mick’s question Is Our Politics too Big for the Net? I thought I’d show what the Hansard Society I’m associated with has been doing with parts of the UK Government to shake up their interactive communication and accountability. There are ideas here that could be adopted by Stormont. Digital Dialogues is part of the Society’s wide ranging e-democracy programme. It was a three phase “review of ways in which central government can use new technologies to promote public engagement … Read more

Ireland’s still special, honest. Obama can U turn too

Hardly the most startling U Turn in history as the Democrats’ powerbrokers assert themselves. From the way the story is written up in Irish Voice Niall Dowd and co are still smarting. ….“ shore up Obama’s somewhat frayed relationship with Irish America….” Was it really only a week or so ago since the Obama camp announced: “He will consult with the Taoiseach, the British prime minister, and party leaders in Northern Ireland to determine whether a special US envoy for … Read more

Brown fight backs with shock U turn on tax powers

You would have missed it. While the UK national media were preoccupied with Gordon Brown’s climb down on a winter fuel payment, the really memorable part of his speech addressed the future of Scottish devolution. In what the Times calls “ a seismic event” Gordon Brown has performed a U turn and flagged up his willingness to give the Scottish Parliament tax raising powers. He talked in code, but the message was clear: “while he would do nothing to put … Read more

Take Salmond seriously

Alex Salmond’s bold stroke to propose replacing council tax with an extra 3p on the basic rate of income tax is the real business of government the main parties in Stormont should turn to once they’ve got over their crisis of confidence and the other parties come out of deep freeze. Powers to raise taxes which Stormont doesn’t have but could bid for, matter far more to people’s real lives than the macho struggle over P&J. There are two ways … Read more

Economic recovery plan postponed, fresh doubt about Brown’s recovery

Whatever he says about making sure the devolution of policing and justice goes ahead, Gordon Brown will have other, bigger things on his mind over the next few days. First he has to cope with the humiliation of having to postpone today’s planned announcement of phase two of his economic rescue plan, a one-off payment of £100 to the poorest families to help with soaring fuel bills. As the FT puts it: “Ministers are locked in a high stakes negotiation … Read more


More on the psychosis front. Forget the “uterine activity”, mother and daugther, forget the sexism fightback. It’s hard to dig out from front line comment but it’s in there somewhere. Is everybody happy with this then? Creationism “It is hard to tell whether Palin herself is a creationist or not and, frankly, that’s far less important than the policy positions she holds in the matter. (Though, of course, having a Vice President who is deluded about basic aspects of reality … Read more