Words from Othello, Leonard Cohen for Sean O’Callaghan

Lord (Paul) Bew, a former professor of politics at Queen’s University, Belfast, struck the right note at Sean O’Callaghan’s memorial service in London by citing Othello’s final words in the Shakespeare play. “Soft you; a word or two before you go. I have done the state some service, and they know it. No more of that. I pray you, in your letters, When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate, Nor set down … Read more

Senior Irish and British figures mark death of Sean O’Callaghan

IRA informer Sean O’Callaghan’s life and legacy will be marked by senior representatives of the British and Irish states on Wednesday. They will be joined by many of his friends in London, where he made his life and from where he gave invaluable advice to David Trimble about how to deal with his former close colleagues in the IRA. The former IRA commander gave the intelligence services in Britain and Ireland vital information about IRA operations and the thinking of … Read more

BIPA and the ramping up of Anglo-Irish relations

This weekend fifty parliamentarians from Ireland, Britain and other parts of the archipelago are meeting in a hotel in Sligo for the 56th plenary of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. The BIPA rarely attracts much media attention except by accident such as when a geographically challenged MP drove to Newcastle, County Down rather than Newcastle upon Tyne for a plenary. But the BIPA is assuming greater importance thanks to Brexit, although the assembly plays no formal role. One of our most … Read more

BIPA and facing the difficult politics of a common history….

The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly  delved deep into history to commemorate the centenary of the Great War and to highlight the long hidden and shared contribution of soldiers – Catholic and Protestant, Nationalist and Unionist – as a means of overcoming present differences. Many cite the comment by Churchill at the end of that war that “The whole map of Europe has been changed … The mode of thought of men, the whole outlook on affairs, the grouping of parties, all have encountered violent and tremendous changes in … Read more

Emphasis of Kurdish parties is on equality within the current borders

The House of Commons will discuss UK relations with the Kurdistan Region in a 90 minute debate on today led by Conservative MP Jason McCartney, who served as an RAF officer policing John Major’s no-fly zone in the 1990s. It saved the Kurds from extinction at the hands of Saddam Hussein. No wonder that they are deeply pro-British and that the no-fly zone and the later liberation of Iraq in 2003 have eroded critical memories of British involvement in Kurdistan … Read more

DCC Judith Gillespie: “Policing remains one of the most visible institutions whose actions are interpreted through opposing narratives and lenses…”

One woman dominated the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly this week in London – not the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers who opened the Assembly on Monday, but Judith Gillespie OBE, Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI. She was no uninspiring plod – all proceeding northerly in strangulated officialise. She brought passion, conviction and incisiveness to the table. Her “sterling” speech, as Paul Bew put it, was also described as a tour de force in outlining the journey from the RUC into … Read more

Is the UK government serious about the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly?

There have been 47 plenary sessions of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and its predecessor body since 1990. They usually take place in Ireland or GB. Many Taoisigh have addressed the meeting and underlined their support for its work. But never has a British Prime Minister done the same. Being in London it would have been a golden opportunity for the British PM, David Cameron to break the mould. Or Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister with formal responsibility for the … Read more

Ever heard of “Operation Irish” in Wales?

The Sh!t hit the fan, literally, at the end of this week’s British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in London today. A group of Welsh and Irish parliamentarians urged the Assembly to condemn the offensive use of the term “Operation Irish” as the code for a South Wales police operation to persuade schoolchildren to clear up dog mess. The police have apologised and say that “operational names are randomly assigned to policing operations for administrative purposes.” This rather misses the point which is … Read more

BIPA at 21: Has its day come?

At the end of its recent plenary in Brighton Irish Co-Chair Joe McHugh quipped that that the low profile of the Assembly had been changed by press coverage of its decision to hold the plenary in the Grand Hotel 27 years after the Provo bomb that nearly killed Mrs Thatcher. Some Conservative MPs were angered by the decision which was taken for practical rather than political reasons. Northern Ireland ministers unusually stayed away pleading a conflicting diary engagement. Reservations about … Read more

BIPA: Some heat and light in Brighton…

The pebbley beaches in Brighton deprive me of using the metaphor that the tide is about to overcome a carefully constructed sand castle But there is a sense here in Brighton at the 43rd plenary of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly that the tide may soon come in on a body that has done much to foster good relations in these islands but is now searching for a role I am hearing strong suggestions that the British Government may call time … Read more

British Irish Assembly meets in the Grand Hotel Brighton

A smorgasbord of hot political and business issues dominates the next meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly which brings together senior parliamentarians and ministers from across these islands. Their focus is on the banking crisis but they will also hear from the Northern Ireland Police Minister David Ford in the wake of the MI5 sting operation that put a Real IRA arms dealer behind bars for 12 years in Lithuania. The meeting takes place in the Grand Hotel in Brighton … Read more

The position of women in Iraqi Kurdistan

The radical potential of a thriving and progressive Kurdistan Region in Iraq for the whole country and the wider Middle East was brought home to me when I sat down last week with the Women’s Committee of the provincial council in Suleimaniah, the region’s second city. It wasn’t just because I was the only bloke in the room but mainly because it was a living testament to the greater openness and female participation in social life in the Kurdistan Region. … Read more

Why we should back Brown’s moves against the fat cats

The longstanding campaign for the Tobin Tax was once compared to the futile search for the Loch Ness Monster. So it is apt that an MP from Scotland, Gordon Brown, has started to scotch the cynics and trumpet the idea of a transaction levy. The UK now joins Germany, France and other countries as keen advocates. The levy is a radical change in UK thinking. I remember a Treasury Minister dismissing Tobin in a meeting with a delegation a decade … Read more

Launch today of the British Irish Ulster Forum at Westminster

A new organisation is being launched tonight in Westminster by Thomas Lowe and Chris Punch. The organisation is called the British Irish Ulster Forum (BIUF) which can be found at www.biuf.org The topic for the launch event is ‘Building bridges, breaking ties: looking ahead at Stormont’ with an interesting array of speakers Chris Ruane MP (Labour), Alasdair McDonnell MP, MLA (Deputy Leader, SDLP) and Cllr Ian Parsley (Conservative nominee to the New Force Joint Committee as Candidate for North Down). … Read more

It’s the way they tell them

There was a strong turn out at a grand dinner this week in the Lords to celebrate the achievements of the integrated education movement. The feed was sponsored by Frank Carson and attracted a glittering array of supporters ranging from Peter Hain, Peter Brooke, Owen Paterson, Brian Mawhinney and Jane Kennedy to stars such as Frank Carson, Adrian Dunbar and Barry McGuigan – plus me and Mick. All hosted consummately by May Blood, a stalwart campaigner for the cause, accompanied … Read more

Orange Marches safe in a united Ireland according to Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams becomes the first Sinn Fein leader to address the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Swansea this morning. He will use rational, pragmatic and economic arguments to urge them “to join in the historic endeavour to bring about the reunification of the people of Ireland” and promises that “Orange marches will have their place in a new Ireland albeit on the basis of respect and cooperation.He will say that “the Irish question as it has been described by some is … Read more

Gerry Adams to address British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams becomes the first Sinn Fein leader to address the Assembly in Swansea on Tuesday morning. He is expected to make a rational case for Irish unity and seek to accommodate unionist fears and hopes. Watch this space. What do you think Gerry should say? Gary KentGary Kent is a graduate of international relations. After spells in management in British Rail and the Co-Op he began work in parliament in 1987 where he was active for … Read more

Questions for Gerry and Mark

Gerry Adams and Mark Durkan of Sinn Fein and the SDLP respectively will be pitching their parties’ programme and perspectives in key note addresses at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Swansea next Monday and Tuesday. The leaders will be heard by parliamentarians from across these islands including unionists and, in particular, several voluble critics of the Provisionals from both parts of Ireland. Perhaps Slugger readers would like to think of some questions for Gerry or Mark? I cannot be there … Read more

Irish Greens and Red Faces

The Irish Greens have saved many red faces in these islands. If they had pulled the plug on the Fianna Fail led coalition government on Saturday the forthcoming British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Swansea next week would have gone down the tubes at great expense as it would have been too late to cancel flights and the hotel. It would have attracted a great deal of ire as ironically the key theme of the two-day session is to focus on efforts … Read more

An overlooked part of Irish history

The Troubles have produced a vast library but it is amazing that this is the first major history of an overlooked but influential movement: the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party. This history of the “Sticks” is a labour of love that took five years and draws on many interviews and official archives, so to speak. It convincingly and readably narrates the fascinating story of a movement that journeyed over three bloody decades from the priority of forcibly removing the … Read more