Census 2001: Empey on the rising Catholic population

Reg Empey is the latest Unionist politician to share his thoughts on the potential outcomes of the census when it is announced on Thursday: “While this is no definitive guarantee of how people vote, it is a strong indicator. It must also be remembered that the figures refer to the whole population and not the electorate. But the figures will show a growing Catholic population, a reducing Protestant population as a percentage of the total, and a growing group described … Read more

Census shock on its way

From Jude Collins, simply the most important story of the week. I cannot vouch for the rest of the speculation in Jude’s piece, but this one aspect alone could be revolutionary in its implications: “When census returns are released this month, the figure beside the Catholic 45% will not be 55% Protestant. When ‘others’ have been factored in, the Protestant population in the north is likely to emerge as less than 50% for the first time in its history.” Such … Read more

Robinson’s plan:summary

In conversation with Frank Millar, Peter Robinson outlined the conditions for his party’s willing engagement with the peace process. He outlined what he believes to be fundamental flaws of the current Agreement. He returned to a theme his colleague Sammy Wilson outlined in more detail a few weeks back – the unaccountability of the institutions. He did not rule out working with Sinn Fein, but this would entail (amongst other things) finding a system that would allow all players to … Read more

Robinson’s plan: Consent

And finally, Peter Robinson confirms the need to seek consent within both communities: As a principle for the future, I believe you can only govern through consent and any attempt to govern without consent – and I do refer to that as being consent from both sections of our community – and I’ve argued the case over and over again that past systems have fallen because there was an absence of consent from one section of the community or another. … Read more

Sinn Fein: between the lobby and the street

The Andersonstown News editorialises on the current deadlock, picking up on the recent murder in Ballygowan to suggest that Unionists seem more intent on keeping Sinn Fein out of government. But what’s more interesting about this piece is the detailed analysis of how recent political decisions have effected the social and economic life of nationalist West Belfast, along with a hint that the professionalization of Sinn Fein politics may be causing rifts between them and their traditional power base: “If … Read more

Sovereignty change?

Mitchell McLaughlin in a speech in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, challenged Unionists to declare whether they support the transference of sovereignty in the event that a majority in the North vote for it. On the face of it, it is hard to see the relevance of this concern. Particularly since the Belfast Agreement states in its first clause: “The participants endorse the commitment made by the British and Irish Governments that, in a new British-Irish Agreement replacing the Anglo-Irish Agreement, they … Read more

Religious figures in the census

Are due to be published this month. Though the Census office has not given a date, latest reports suggest that it is on schedule to reach the public before Christmas. In light of this, journalists, politicians and policy makers will be dusting down the many words written on the political demography of Northern Ireland, in preparation for copious amounts of their own wise words on the subject. No doubt John Adams’ Political Demography of Northern Ireland will prove an invaluable … Read more

Blair speech: Completion

This may be the sound bite that outlasts the rest when the time and the place of this speech are long forgotten. Blair calls for decisive action: It’s time for acts of completion. We will do our best to carry on implementing the Agreement in any event. But, should real change occur, we can implement the rest of the Agreement, including on normalisation, in its entirety and not in stages but together. And we are prepared to do what is … Read more

Blair speech: The benefits

The focus changes to the political and economic benefits the Agreement has brought: “…there is still violence, but at a far, far reduced rate – in 1972, 470 people died. This year, so far, ten. Ten too many, but let us recognise the progress made. The transformation in the economy has been enormous: unemployment at its lowest since 1975; long-term unemployment, down 65 per cent since the Agreement; manufacturing up 15 per cent, uniquely in the UK. New jobs, new … Read more

Suspension; eye witness

In the subscription only Irish News Newton Emerson, editor of the satirical website Portadown News was in Stormont on the last day of business. One thing that consistently erks the reasonable middle ground parties is the way that most commentators rarely talk to them: “The Women’s Coalition are first to brave the spotlight. Cruelly, several reporters take this opportunity to make final adjustments to their cameras and microphones. There are no questions. As they leave, the DUP arrives and the … Read more

Suspension; winners and losers

Malachi O’Doherty is the first one I’ve seen to evaluate the gains and losses made by each of four main parties through the events of the last fortnight. It’s an interesting exercise, but one that may prove misleading in a process that has become more long term, where many expected early closure. Indeed it is these parties that O’Doherty pinpoints as the main losers. The winner, he declares is the DUP, repeating his observation of last Sunday that Peter Robinson … Read more

Danny Morrison interviews David Ervine

This is a conversation between two men who both share a very direct style of communication. It’s interesting too because it represents countless other conversations that have abounded since the Belfast Agreement. He talks about the proposed exclusion of Sinn Fein from the Executive “When I view the potential for January I’’m saying to myself, ‘”what is it Trimble wants”? How many hoops have people to jump through?’ What I am clear on is what the Republican Movement and loyalists need … Read more

IRA linked to Castlereagh breakin

Ananova reports Police believe they have evidence of a link. There’s more detail from UTV. Police deny this was connected to a raid on Sinn Fein’s Stormont office this morning. But the heat is being turned up on both Sinn Fein and the IRA. Jude Collins reacts to the conjecture around this and the Colombian story from a Nationalist point of veiw. Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on … Read more


Rumour has reached us that one of the assailants in a recent gun attack also managed to put himself into hospital by shooting himself in the ‘privates’ during the get away! For those less familiar with recent events in Belfast, there has been a low level conflict rising between rival Loyalist paramilitaries over the last few weeks. For background, see here. Anyone familiar with the plot line of Colin Bateman’s novel and subsequent film, ‘Divorcing Jack’, or Martin Lynch’s early … Read more

Short Strand protestants..

Suzanne Breen talks to protestant women in the troubled area in East Belfast, kindly reproduced by Newshound. The three women all live right on the peaceline in the Clandeboye Estate. Jean grew up in the staunchly unionist Newtownards Road area. She has five children and moved into the Short Strand 30 years ago. “Since May our homes have been under sustained attack from loyalists day and night,” she says. Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers … Read more

Politician’s weblog

Interesting weblog by Westminster MP Harry Barnes. This piece is intriguingly titled; IRA plc and Loyalist Limited. Harry is a member of the House of Commons Northern Ireland Select Committee. 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


James Kelly in the subscription only Irish News, is getting fed up with the seemingly endless series of constitutional crises, and suggests that NI Plc is being seriously neglected in all the furore. Meantime, out in the real world away from the political hothouse, voices are being heard protesting about the political stranglehold which is choking economic growth here. One such voice is that of Jim Berry, a specialist on planning and development at the University of Ulster. He is … Read more

More on the UUC meeting…

The Guardian editoralises boldly: The immediate villains of the piece are anti-agreement campaigners inside the Ulster Unionists, led by two MPs, Jeffrey Donaldson and David Burnside. They hold out the unacceptable and un realistic prospect of devolution without Sinn Fein. Unionists should recognise that by rejecting Mr Trimble, they would also be rejecting Northern Ireland’s opportunity to run its own affairs. By contrast, Mr Trimble’s record is commendable. He took the bold step of swinging mainstream unionist opinion behind the … Read more

Adams on Blair’s vision…

In an interview with Andrew Cawthorne, Gerry Adams praises Tony Blair’s vision: The strategic vision, I think, which marked Tony Blair’s involvement in this process some years ago and which was part of bringing about the Good Friday agreement, part of all of the changes which have flowed, has not been reflected in the actions of his Secretary of State over the last 18 months. In the more immediate term, John Reid has announced the formation of an action group … Read more

Nationalist backroom

The SDLP rarely get a share of the headlines, but Mark Durkan’s visit to the Shankill has certainly bought him plenty of column inches, here, here and here. However he followed up with an attack on Jeffrey Donaldson’s article (see here), saying: If Ulster Unionists give Jeffrey Donaldson a role in Agreement politics, it “would be like trusting Sellafield with environmental safety’ Speaking of the upcoming UUC meeting, he comments: …we do know is that every single strategy that he … Read more