Southern legislation is only temporary?

Though Brian Cowan and Paul Murphy are expected to issue a joint communique agreeing that the recent legislation in the Dail, is only a temporary arrangement, this may not be enough to steady the nerves of many unionists, who view the move as an infringement of UK sovereignty in NI. Such scepticism has it’s roots in the private assurances that David Trimble received at the signing of the Belfast Agreement that Sinn Fein would be excluded if the IRA failed … Read more

NI parties are no more than pressure groups

After David Trimble’s recent overtures to the British Conservatives, this letter from David Wylie to the Belfast Telegraph that seems to speak a major dilemma within the Ulster Unionist party, and indeed most of the NI political parties: “…the UUP, like most other political parties in Northern Ireland, remains a single issue organisation; more a lobbying group at Westminster than a Party able to make a valuable contribution on a wide variety of social, economic and political issues affecting all … Read more

Unionist backroom: Sinn Fein re-entry

The UUP MLA Robert Coulter has called on the Republican movement demonstrate its committment to peace, but it’s clear that the simply taking their seats on the Policing body will not be sufficient to prove good will to mainstream unionists.

Durkan: get the Agreement right first

According to Bimpe Fatogun, Mark Durkan has tried to allay Unionist fears of being pulled into a United Ireland by suggesting that getting local institutions into a functioning and agreed state is more important that questions of sovereignty: “The SDLP has made it clear in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation that we want to develop a clear understanding that the agreement, with all the arrangements, assurances and accommodations that it offers, will endure whatever the outcome of any future … Read more

DUP to target the anti UUP wing?

Roy Garland questions the motives of the DUP in bringing in Andrew Hunter, and suggests his candidature in Jeffrey Donaldson’s Assembly constituency demostrates that the DUP will targeting the ‘anti-agreement’ wing of the UUP as much as what is left of the ‘Trimblistas’.

Census 2001: Catholic school majority widening

Rosie Cowan goes on to quote some apparently sobering facts: “Four of Northern Ireland’s five cities, Belfast, Derry, Armagh and Newry, now have Catholic majorities – only Lisburn does not – and last year there were 173,000 Catholic schoolchildren, 146,000 Protestants and 22,000 others.” It should be noted that of these cities, only Belfast has changed in the course of the last 40 years. And in any case it masks the fact that the largely protestant Castlereagh Borough Council, controls … Read more

Census 2001: Donaldson replies

Rosie Cowan has a piece on the forthcoming census. It seems to be beginning to concentrate minds. As if in answer to Mitchell McLaughlin yesterday, Jeffrey Donaldson replies that forcing protestants into a united Ireland would be counter productive and went on to suggest that: “…because the suspended Stormont assembly requires separate majorities of both unionists and nationalists to pass legislation, the dual consent principle should apply to any vote on a united Ireland.”

Census 2001: The Sinn Fein take

Chris Thorton reports that Mitchell McLaughlin warns unionists that the demographic trends should not simply be a source of fear, but suggests instead that they: “…they would serve their constituency best by encouraging discussion and debate on how a united Ireland would guarantee equality and human rights for all traditions.” Put like that, it’s an offer that few Unionist are likely to want to be seen to accept.

Census 2001: discussion

I am not sure what has prompted this sudden outbreak of civil and intelligent discussion at Debate Central, but here’s a thread worth following for a while on what Thursday’s census results might give rise to. And this one.

Renegotiations: something is happening

We’re into something approximating a winter silly season, were most commentators are kicking around one or two favourite footballs in the absence of much action actually on the pitch. We are reduced to reading what runes there are to be seen. Something seems to be moving even if it is impossible to hear much outside of the locked negotiation rooms. Leading UUP dissident Jeffrey Donaldson has proposed the cancellation of next month’s adjourned UUC meeting because: “It’s clear the government … Read more

The Letter's current readership

Though it’s best not put too much store by such figures, the Alexa site keeps tabs on a range of commercial and non-commercial websites. This week it has raised the Letter to Slugger O’Toole’s ranking from 1,809,488th to 1,491,385th; up 318,103 places.

Rebel song to top BBC World poll?

Apparently the result of a ‘guerilla’ style voting campaign, an old Irish rebel song A Nation Once Again to the top of a worldwide poll to find the most popular song at the BBC. An email campaign and some online discussion sites may have been instrumental in working up the numbers required to make the song a top contender to make it into The World’s Top Ten. Voting has now ended, but the final chart will be published on 21 … Read more

Adair to be ousted?

Rumours reported in yesterday’s Sunday Life suggest that Johnny Adair’s West Belfast C Company may be seeking to replace with his former second-in-command.

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

Secret History of the IRA

If you feel you are never likely to get around to reading this weighty tome on the in workings of one Europe’s oldest and most effective guerilla armies, The Blanket has a compendium of reviews, that are worth flicking through, including Eammon McCann’s epic for the Nation magazine, which the Letter blogged a few months back.

Belfast and the Middle East

The Blanket takes a distinctly eastern slant on politics this week. Henry McDonald suggests that with the proliferation of Israeli and Palestinian flags, both sides in Belfast are glossing over a very uneven and at times nasty reality in the Middle East: “At the heart of the apologias for Palestinian terror or Israeli oppression is a denial of the facts. A large section of the Palestinian populace back movements that are murderously anti-Semitic. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are dedicated to … Read more

Successful week

Things have been relatively quiet all week at the re-negotiations. In what may be designed to be helpful for a DUP entry into discussions, the Alliance leader David Ford calls for a wider review of the workings of the Agreement.

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

Investment issues

Interesting musings from the Andersonstown News on the state of NI economic state of affairs after the announcement of a £2billion investment in Northern Ireland’s infrastructure. This short paper from the CBI in Northern Ireland is worth a read for another view on what’s needed for the floatation of the economy.

Dublin legislation angers Unionists

Unionist politicians of all shades seem united in their objections to the legislation in the Irish parliament to keep the six crossborder bodies operating despite the suspension of the assembly. All that is except the DUP in the shape of Nigel Dodds who is asking whether the UUP leader actually knew about the arrangements beforehand. Though some Unionists believe this move is indicative of bad faith on the part of the southern Government, it’s apparent from this exchange in Seanad … Read more