“…the focus would be on gleaning information on the IRA rather than prosecuting a child abuser.”

At one point in The View last night, SF’s Phillip McGuigan said yesterday “was a bad day for political accountability”. He was, of course, referring to the failure a recall motion to force Ian Paisley to fight a by-election to retain his seat. It came as his own party leader got caught up in the outflow of the Police Ombudsman report, when she claimed, rather implausibly, that her party had no records of Mairia Cahill’s alleged rapist being a member of her party. … Read more

If Northern Ireland is caught in an endless trap of powerlessness, is it time to ditch St Andrews?

“You can’t have it both ways” explained Ian Paisley – refuting Gareth Gordon’s suggestion that people didn’t vote for a recall byelection because they thought he would win anyway – making the puzzling claim that 90.6% who didn’t vote had endorsed him as MP!  Having it both ways has become a Northern Irish habit. Paisley’s is the same dour culture of entitlement and hubris of the DUP that we see in the now familiar exchanges in the Coghlin Inquiry. But ‘it … Read more

No recall in North Antrim for suspended DUP MP Ian Paisley…

So no recall for Ian Paisley. It was close enough (9.4% to the 10 per cent needed to trigger a byelection) but I suspect without the prospect of a clean candidate capable of attracting both nationalist and unionist voters, there was no prospect of anything but a re-election. Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said it was clear there was no public appetite for a by-election… I respect that outcome. However, I would caution Ian Paisley not to see this as some sort … Read more

Do we still have “a dirty peace” in which investigation of child rape was seemingly deferred to the IRA?

“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman”, said associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Louis Dembitz Brandeis. In the case of Mairia Cahill, it is Cahill (not any organ of the state) who has forced an extraordinary story out of a close-mouthed system with horrendous import for wider society, of a rape victim who fell foul of the wrong people in the … Read more

It’s not an apology Ms Cahill needs, but an explanation of how such a cover-up was managed…

The Mairia Cahill story is back. The Ombudsman report like the Starmer report before identifies significant failings on the part of the state in bringing an IRA member suspected of gross criminal behaviour before the courts. The Ombudsman has uncovered intelligence that Sinn Fein suspended the abuser in August 2000. The party first became aware of the abuse was in 1997 – while it was still onoing. His expulsion only came in 2000, when police records reveal the IRA was investigating child … Read more

Permanent Secretary failed to address significant under-representation on NIFRS board…

Yet more evidence that the Commissioner for Public Appointments is being casually sidelined (one former office holder) after the Minister excluded her from the appointment of directors to NI Water). This time, with no minister in the job to take the flack it was Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly. The BBC reports: The permanent health secretary made “substantive breaches” of the code overseeing ministerial public appointments when selecting board members for NI Fire and Rescue Service. That was the finding of … Read more

“Not only did they not tell the public that they allowed a child sex abuser to remain in the party…”

So the Ombudsman has delivered his latest report (or letter) to Mairia Cahill, not simply on the deficiencies of, first the RUC and secondly the PSNI in handling her case, but some damning news for Sinn Fein too. The BBC reports: …the RUC, Northern Ireland’s police force before the PSNI was formed in 2001, had information about allegations of child abuse by an IRA member 10 years before the complaints were made but failed to act. He also found that there … Read more

RHI turning into a bonfire of the DUP’s reputation to do basic government…

Shortly after the RHI story broke I remember remarking on the irony that the party had been hit in a policy area over which it had frequently expressed utter contempt. Sammy Wilson’s notorious flip from signing an early day motion in Westminster on climate change to full blown sceptical disciple of Nigel Lawson is a particularly stark example of the low contempt many in the party hold for any environmental policy. So Tim Cairns’ revelations didn’t stop at Jonathan Bell’s … Read more

Micheál Martin: “the core of nationalism is to secure a unity of people and not just a unity of structures…”

In his recently published book, my old Slugger partner in crime Paul Evans describes the rise in the populism as a  form of anti-utilitarianism in which political gaming is gradually crowding out representative democracy. Whilst keen not to paint Brexit or the election of Trump as civilisation’s end, he highlights the capacity for hidden interests to manipulate any electorate through dark money and by sending radically different political messages even to people living under the same roof is rising. The resulting squeezing of … Read more

Boundary Commission removes one seat and puts Dungiven back together…

So the latest boundary review has reported. It should be the final one. N0rthern Ireland loses just one constituency, as its share of the 50 that have to go under the coalition’s Rules of Redistribution. The BBC have a broad outline of the major changes in Northern Ireland… Dungiven will no longer be split between three constituencies, instead it will be moved to Sperrin. Lagan Valley and Strangford will also disappear from the constituency map. The new plan will see … Read more

How Sinn Fein colluded with the DUP to keep RHI crisis secret from Executive colleagues…

Best comment I’ve heard about Jonathan Bell’s version of his part in the RHI drama (it is a scandal of course, but most of the public story so far has been much more contrived than that would imply), is that it could be characterised as “being there, but not involved”. It’s a neat sleight of hand (and not one normally afforded to unionist politicians by the NI media) to ignore the fact that Mr Bell was, in fact, the minister … Read more

“Listen to me big balls” plus the revelation that Jonathan Bell made secret RHI recordings

Some of the revelations coming out of the RHI inquiry are almost like a Vaudeville show.  Quote of the month falls to DUP SpAd Tim Cairns, courtesy of the BBC… During a row in London in 2015 one particularly heated exchange between the pair ended, Mr Bell claimed, with Mr Cairns telling him: “Now you’re going to listen to me big balls.” The Perm Sec at the Enterprise Dept, Andrew McCormick only remarked that the language used was “terse, pointed, … Read more

MLAs take a pay cut whilst civil servants to be given power to make our politicians’ decisions without them…

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has announced in the Commons that MLA pay will fall in November from £49,500 to £35,888, in two stages. The first cut of £7,425 is to be followed by a £6,187 reduction three months afterwards. She also said that “it would not reduce the allowance for staff as I do not think that MLAs’ staff should suffer because of the politicians’ failure to form an Executive.”

”you could drive a double decker bus through Stormont…”

I One of the more, er, direct analyses of Northern Irish politics… Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

To challenge Northern Ireland’s weightless politics, any Fianna Fail move must change the conversation

A potential SDLP/Fianna Fail electoral arrangement was the top read story on the Irish Times on Tuesday. That’s the silly season for you. However, Fiach Kelly is a serious journo and Micheal Martin’s 2019 deadline is approaching. There’s little detail other than something will be announced in September. Kelly suggests it could involve some form of “a phased process which would eventually bring both under the Fianna Fáil banner”. It’s the latest hint matters are starting to get serious. No detail … Read more

“…a failure of empathy, of understanding, of insight into the lives of other people”

Empathy has been a bit of a theme for me this week. Personally I’ve been trying to use it in the positive, expansive bridge-building aspect, but it is not as though empathy does not already exist in Northern Ireland. Within the present two tribe culture system, of course it exists. It is capable of tuning us into collaboration on anger, hatred and fear as well as having the capacity to help us to build a larger, connected and inclusive sense … Read more

Time for Ireland to re-embrace Wellington as a great Irishman?

There’s still a few Summer Schools to go before the political season returns in the south (traditionally after the National Ploughing Championships, but there are few performance like this one from Eoghan Harris in Kilkenny at the weekend… Eoghan Harris: Full Kilkenny Festival Talk from Eoghan Harris on Vimeo. He looks at Wellington and Daniel O’Connell and their very different roles in the passage of the Catholic Relief Act 1829) and makes the case that Wellington should take his place … Read more

Talking over the heads of unionists has been tried and found wanting for nearly a hundred years…

Speculating about a border poll when no one is attending to business in the here and now is a bit like eating your packed lunch at 9.30. It leaves you nothing to eat at lunchtime. It may be helpful for a talented (and in my experience, diligent) economist like Paul Gosling to point out that with the right deal Northern Ireland could be economically better off in a united Ireland. But it is quite another thing to create the conditions where … Read more

“He said [the Protestant] gene pool is so small they are all like the people from Deliverance.”

I cannot believe this is typical of the taxi drivers who give history tours of the trouble spots of Belfast, but it does provide a graphic illustration of what anti Protestant bigotry looks and sounds like: The next thing we drive down a street with a lot of Union Jacks, Scottish saltires and Red Hand of Ulster flags and he said ‘the reason the Protestants fly all these flags is because they have no culture of their own’,” Mr Liquerman … Read more

Mary Lou’s U Turn: Under pressure, most SF ‘policies’ are rarely binding for more than a day…

Most of the speculation about a united Ireland has become pervasive and tendentious in the extreme, driven, no doubt in part, but some of the extreme emotions unleashed by the whole Brexit process. Or as a Peter Robinson put it in Donegal, “shaking that [Brexit] tree was almost certain to cause abundant fallout”. It is further exaggerated by the fact that those elected to the Stormont have absolved themselves by refusing to take office. Without an Assembly in Northern Ireland … Read more