British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly

The campaign by the families of the victims of the Omagh bomb urging ministers to disclose secret intelligence information on the suspected Real IRA perpetrators received a significant boost this week. The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, meeting in Newcastle, overwhelmingly backed a cross-party motion from Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, who described it as a “call from the grave for justice.” The Assembly instructed its Chair and former Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, to press this urgently with ministers as the families’ … Read more

British and Irish Parliamentarians to meet in Newcastle

Pleas by lawyers for the British Prime Minister to release intelligence on the Real IRA bombers behind the Omagh bomb have been boosted by MP Andrew Mackinlay, who is to raise the issue at the meeting this weekend of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body. The attack in 1998 is biggest atrocity of the Northern Ireland Troubles and 29 people were murdered but no one has yet been convicted. Mr Mackinlay has initiated a debate at the forthcoming meeting of the British-Irish … Read more

A city break in Baghdad

A weekend in the Green Zone as part of the Labour Friends of Iraq’s ongoing dialogue with the Islamic Dawa Party of Prime Minister Al Maliki was gruelling but politically worthwhile. Talking with the PM and his party colleagues, his bipartisan advisory group, the Sunni Defence Minister, MPs from various parties in the Parliament and others reinforced several themes. First, the massive burdens of Iraq’s history and geography. The scale of the physical and psychological destruction wreaked by Saddam should … Read more

Murder, policing and drugs key issues at British-Irish Body in Wexford

The Paul Quinn murder, devolving police powers in Northern Ireland and drugs policy dominate next week’s meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body in Wexford. Irish TDs Seymour Crawford and Rory O’Hanlon have both tabled questions on the Quinn murder, which will be answered by Martin Cullen, the Irish Minister for Social and Family Affairs. Mr Crawford asks if the authorities are receiving enough co-operation whilst Mr O’Hanlon asks for a progress report on restoring normal policing to South Armagh. SDLP … Read more

Inside Iraqi Kurdistan

It’s impossible to spend any time in Iraqi Kurdistan without understanding the scale of the physical and psychological violence inflicted on its people. The Iraqi Kurds, who are not Arabs but who are closer to the Persians, were corralled into Iraq in the 1920s and were Saddam’s chief victims for four decades. In the 1980s, nearly 200,000 men, women and children were slaughtered in Saddam’s genocidal “Anfal” campaign. Over 4,000 villages were razed and people herded into detention camps. However, … Read more

The future of the British-Irish Body

The British-Irish Body is still discussing its own future The former Conservative Security Minister Michael Mates has been a stalwart of the Body since its birth. He described the inaugural meeting 18 years ago as the most hostile suspicious and ill tempered meeting he had ever attended The Body is in danger of being a fairly bland talking shop which ministers ignore and which is still ridiculously boycotted by the unionists When it meets in 6 months time in Wexford … Read more

Dublin too dangerous for UDA leader

Fianna Fail TD Charlie O’Connor amused many at the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body with his tale of a UDA leader confiding that he was somewhat fearful of visiting Dublin due to its high levels of drug dealing, violent crime and murder. Ahem, indeed Gary Kent

Security issues top agenda at British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body

Security in Northern Ireland is likely to dominate next week’s meeting of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body in Oxford. The Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward will be cross-examined by SDLP Deputy Leader and South Belfast MP, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, about the murder of Paul Quinn at Oram, County Monaghan. Many say that the IRA didn’t sanction the brutal slaughter of Mr Quinn but the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) says that the culprits “included people who are members or former members or … Read more

Call for power sharing at grassroots level

The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education welcomes the historic commitments from both the DUP and Sinn Fein to move towards a power sharing government. Nationalists and Unionists sitting down in government together sends a strong signal to the electorate that there is willingness towards breaking down the sectarianism and segregation that have accumulated over decades and which deeply divide Northern Ireland. Moving forwards together is a slow and difficult journey as the integrated sector can testify to after 25 … Read more

Analysing elections on both sides of the pond

George Bush has admitted that the Republicans received a “thumping” in the mid-term elections and many are starting to think that the Democrats could take the Presidency in two years time. If it were Hillary, the presidential roll call would be: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. But before we get carried away with this we could analyse the figures and analysis I have just picked up from a seminar with a “Senior Administration Official.” First, such mid-term losses are the norm, … Read more

Home Secretary helps launch book on political riots

John Reid last night helped launch the new book by respected Lobby Correspondent Ian Hernon on civil insurrection from Peterloo to the present day. Some see Reid as a scary authoritarian but he made what even one jaded cynic saw as a very liberal speech defending detractors in the press who are doing a public service in increasing accountability of ministers. I haven’t digested the book (published by Pluto) as a whole but had a quick skim through the chapter … Read more

The DUP charm offensive at Labour Party conference

Gary Kent reports on the DUP charm offensive at the Labour Party conference Swigging bubbly with Dr Ian Paisley was a jaw-dropping first for many astonished delegates at the Labour Party conference in Manchester this week. But a Federation of Small Businesses champagne reception was where the DUP’s charm offensive began. And this time the emphasis was on the charm rather than the offensive. Dr Paisley and his son stuck to water and later stuck to their guns but wanted … Read more

Peter Hain backs integrated education

The Secretary of State received widespread applause from delegates when he told the Labour Party conference in Manchester today that “we want much more integrated education in Northern Ireland as well.” Gary Kent

Compass mapping new directions for a new Labour?

The Labour Party has had the luxury over the last decade of not having to worry too much about the Conservatives. Cameron is changing that. A fourth term is still possible for Labour but more and more people fear or hope that Cameron could achieve power at one go. The Prime Minister’s pre-announced departure together with fears that the party could now face defeat at the polls is fuelling something of a resurgence in debate about the party’s future policies, … Read more

More from stormin’ Norman on N’orn Ireland

Lord Tebbit has been busy in the Lords of late. He’s also asked this of Her Majesty’s Government: what is the nature of the “partnership, north and south” which the joint statement of the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach of the Irish Republic at Armagh on 6 April envisaged would give expression to “the legitimate aspiration of nationalists and republicans for a united Ireland”. Jeff Rooker answered thus: The Prime Minister emphasised in his speech accompanying the joint statement of … Read more

Rave from the Grave?

Norman Tebbit asks Her Majesty’s Government whether they regard celebrations of Irish republican violence during Easter 1916 as a glorification of terrorism. The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal) replies – see what you make of it: Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which came into force on 13 April 2006, creates an offence of encouragement of terrorism including glorification of the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism. Section 1 contains a number of safeguards … Read more

Labour delegation meets Iraqi trade unions

There is a Dwarfs’ Association in Iraqi Kurdistan. It seemed odd at first but Saddam’s actual use of weapons of mass destruction continues to wreak biological havoc and this Association combats the stigma. A recent article for Fortnight magazine. Nearly 200,000 people died in Saddam’s genocidal campaign to exterminate Iraqi Kurds and there’s also an increased incidence of cancer and leukaemia but no clinics to cope with it or foreign exchange to buy medicines or send people abroad for treatment. … Read more

Fortnight report on last meeting of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body in Co Kerry

History sometimes deals a funny hand. There I was in Killarney, the heart of the Irish tourist industry. Myself and a bevy of senior British parliamentarians had just completed our Irish census forms – as it happens, on the 90th anniversary to the day of the Easter uprising. And Peter Robinson of all people was about to break bread with the Irish Foreign Minister and save the bacon of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body. Could this be the same Peter Robinson … Read more

Full text of Peter Robinson address to British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body

Then formal presentation by DUP Deputy Leader Peter Robinson to the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body in Killarney on Monday went down very well. One member told me it was very statesmanlike. Many agreed that it was very clear and courteous. It repays full study and the entire text is here too. Gary Kent Peter Robinson address. We are unionists – by birth, by desire, by conviction – unapologetically, unflinchingly and unalterably. We are not nationalists who have lost our way. We … Read more

DUP to travel south for British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body

This is a major breakthrough for the work of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, which brings together Irish, British and other parliamentarians twice a year to discuss matters of mutual interest in these islands. The Body has been boycotted by unionists since its inception 16 years ago but the next meeting of the Body in Killarney from April 23-24 will be attended by four leading members of the Democratic Unionist Party. The high-powered DUP delegation will be led by the party’s … Read more