Northern deficit in welfare

An academic paper to be published later this month suggests that Northern benefit payment levels lag significantly behind that those of the Republic.

Stormont spy: inquiry call

Known by the codename Hezz, the latest operation investigating a so-called spyring at Stormont, has prompted Michael McGimpsey to call for a public inquiry. Reaction from Gerry Kelly and David Trimble, with background from Brian Rowan.

Bloody Sunday: innocent or not?

General Sir Robert Ford questioned Tony Blair’s suggestion before the beginning of the Inquiry, that the casualties of Bloody Sunday might be innocent. Brendan O’Neill put together an extensive piece on this earlier this year.

Adams: on unionism

John Farmer interviews Gerry Adams for the first time in twenty years, this time they are in Manhattan. He notices a change from their last meeting: “…some of the hard edge one heard 20 years ago seems softened. He may or may not have been a gunman, but Adams is a politician now — with a politician’s sensitivity to the requirement for patience, even for an understanding of the other side.” Update: However, not everyone in the US is impressed. … Read more

What is it to be Irish abroad?

Irish in Britain has a short piece on what it is to be, well… Irish in Britain. They are looking for opinions.

Former Tory arrives in NI

Andrew Hunter, who resigned the Conservative whip in preparation for his attempt at gaining an Assembly seat for the DUP, arrived in NI to meet voters for the first time.

Stormont crisis: spyhunt continues

An investigation to find ‘moles’ within the Civil Service has taken 2,000 statements and interviewed 500 people, with police still examining 79 computers and 1,000 disks.

Stormont: unloved but effective in places

Graham Gudgeon, a close advisor to First Minister David Trimble, suggests that few in NI have yet learned to love the devolved institutions, but provides a useful rundown of where its impact was greatest.

Morality of agreement

Barrie Penrose’s article has kicked off a brief discussion here. It seems to raise another question that might be worth airing. Beyond the practical question of whether the piece is likely to inflame feelings and encourage people to break the boundary between press and players, there is an underlying question of morality. Most attempts at arriving at judgement either make it strictly personal or attempt to vindicate one side at expense of its opposite. The morality of the solution has … Read more

The last week in NI: a summary

For new readers, particularly those arriving here from Tim Blair’s blog, a brief recap on the last week on Letter to Slugger O’Toole. The week began badly for Belfast with the news that it’s bid to become Europe’s City of Culture was stillborn. The moderate nationalist SDLP began to shift pressure onto Sinn Fein to have the IRA disarm. We also ‘sluggered’ two longer essays this week: Richard Kelly on the perceived demoralisation of protestants; and Eammon McCann’s take on … Read more

Book reveals journalist's past

Hugh Jordan, is shortly to publish a book called Milestones in Murder, which apparently discloses details of murdered journalist Martin O’Hagan’s early life as an Official IRA volunteer. Barrie Penrose reports in the Spectator – via Newshound.

Last of the Behans

Brian Behan, younger brother of the more famous playwright Brendan, has died in Brighton.

A tale of two sports

This was too hard to resist. Australia met two quite different fates at the weekend, one against Ireland rugby team, and another against England in cricket.

British voice in US

Critical reveiw of the British Information Service in the US, by Irish Voice editor Niall O’Dowd. Gerry Adams speaking in Canada.

Stormont spy considering litigation

The man accused of spying last week, and who was released without charge on Friday, may sue.

Belfast mayorality: inconsistency

In the wake of the failure to find a Unionist to fill the post of Alex Maskey’s deputy, Barry McCaffrey pinpoints some awkward inconsistencies about the way Unionists have handled the office office of Belfast’s Mayoral position in the past. Namely the fact that they have chosen to elect protestant paramilitaries to the same office: “In the late 1980s unionist councillors elected the PUP’s Hugh Smyth as deputy mayor, four years before the UVF’s ceasefire. In June 1994, Mr Smyth … Read more

Putting NI at the centre

The poet Peter Makem suggests that the institutions established under the Belfast Agreement need to be able to grow organically rather than be pushed into boxes of others’ convenience: “In other words, Northern Ireland must work to become the centre of the new Ireland, a centre of Europe, of everywhere, and no longer a limb of anywhere. Otherwise we have only moved from the jungle of night into the desert of day.”

Unification: consent or dual consent?

Interesting thoughts from Martin Mansergh on what it might take to effect a democratically determined unification of Ireland: This is largely written in reply to an article by Frank Millar a few weeks ago suggesting that such an outcome depended upon consent within both communities. Danny Morrison was one of the first to challenge this premise. Speaking about the attitudes of the minority Catholic community Mansergh says: “They have almost all accepted, however reluctantly, that, if there is to be … Read more

Crucifixion: joyrider

It has taken most of the week for some clear background to come out on this story. Henry McDonald talks to residents, police and paramilitries to get the bottom of this gruesome case. He finds it was not simply a sectarian ‘beating’: “The UDA’s south Belfast brigadier denied that McCartan was attacked solely because he was a Catholic. ‘Listen to the silence from republicans. Their silence is deafening because they know joyriders have tormented their own people over there.’” McDonald … Read more

Parades Commission: controversy

Sir George Quigley’s proposal to split the Parades Commission into two bodies to deal separately with adjudication and mediation is meeting with some opposition, primarily from nationalists who feel that the current body is working perfectly well. As Alex Attwood said before the publication of the proposals on Thursday, “Our position is that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.” Unionists have not been happy with the working of the current body, the second such set up to deal with … Read more