Irish for the Irish alone?

Roy Garland attacks the ethnic assumptions made by some when justifying the promotion of the Irish language.

City of Culture: unrealistic bid

Malachi O’Doherty with a caustic but probably accurate analysis of why Belfast wasn’t selected for the UK shortlist for European City of Culture in 2008.

Business begins again?

Trimble and Adams have their first bilateral meeting since the week of the Stormont collapse.

Not for the faint-hearted

Pictures from Daniel O’Donnell’s wedding in Kincasslagh, Co Donegal today (via the newsfeed at Irish in Britain).

McCann on the IRA: stepping away from history

McCann identifies the difference in the IRA’s premise and those of similar movements. He begins with an echo of Michael Collins: “The agreement doesn’t represent freedom, then, but freedom to achieve freedom. Not the promised land, but a stepping stone toward it. The problem is that the IRA has differed from movements that republicans have sometimes, depending on who’s within earshot, been content to compare themselves with–the Basque ETA, the African National Congress, the Palestine Liberation Organization–in that it has … Read more


The School of Journalism’s weblog at Cardiff University has given a mention of Letter to Slugger O’Toole to their MA students. They have a lot of interesting links and materials on the weblog phenomenon. If you fancy setting up your own blog, Blogger is the place to get started.

Demoralised prods: education

Kelly turns to education. He suggests: “Working-class Protestants have never had much esteem for educational qualifications, nor for much of the last century did they require them: a trade was thought best, and-given the unabashed sectarianism within the north’s major industries-it came easy. This economic prop has since been kicked away by the decline of traditional employers such as Short’s aircraft factory and the shipbuilder Harland & Woolf.” Billy Hutchinson on the effects of a shrinking heavy industry: “‘Long gone … Read more

McCann on the IRA: Adams

This has to be most intelligent and reflective review of Ed Moloney’s A Secret History of the IRA. In fact, it is more of a critical essay on the Northern Command and its natural antithesis to classic Republicanism. He starts on Adams, who has taken star billing in previous reviews (also here and here): “The shadow of Gerry Adams falls across almost every page. Moloney recounts his IRA career: joined as an 18-year-old volunteer in D Company on the Falls … Read more

Demoralised prods: interface

Kelly talks to Chris McGimpsey, who he describes as a Liberal Unionist, who voices the suspicion amongst Loyalists in North Belfast that “…that there is a Sinn Fein/IRA strategy to expel Protestants from their traditional neighbourhoods and capture Belfast by stealth.” McGimpsey cites: “…a succession of bomb scares at the Everton Day Centre on the Crumlin Road that separates Ardoyne from Glencairn and Shankill. He believes that militant republicans are responsible: ‘I think they want to get that school closed … Read more

Bloody Sunday: Ford faces tribunal

Robert Ford, Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland at the time, is to appear in the Saville inquiry today.

Shipyard memories

The BBC are looking for people to provide memories of the Harland and Wolff, once the largest employer in Belfast.

Demoralised prods: what benefits?

Richard Kelly visited the PUP office in Stormont. “‘All Prods are clairvoyant, you know,’ Ervine said. ‘And it’s never good news.’ If David Ervine was now playing Cassandra, then the peace process was sickly indeed. After all, the PUP were the sole unionist grouping which wholeheartedly championed the Agreement-indeed, the first unionists in living memory to come up with a new idea, namely that working-class Protestants and Catholics should make common cause to challenge the long misgovernment of middle-class, ‘big … Read more

SDLP: not stooping down low

Mark Durkan in interview with Seán MacCárthaigh, refutes the old insult that it is simply offering weak compromise to the Nationalist constituency. Towards the end he speculates intriguingly about the future pattern of party politics in Ireland: “I’m open to wider realignment. But people are talking about a merger between the SDLP and an existing southern party; I see things in a more fluid context. People think the parties in the south exist as they are, in perpetuity, and I … Read more

A case for disbandment

Mark Durkan has called for all paramilitaries to disband. He clearly has the support of others in his party. Billy Mitchell in The Blanket provides a more detailed view of a problem inherited from 30 years of apparently endless conflict within the state. And even Sinn Fein seem to be sending strong messages to fringe groups.

The Cruiser's birthday

Love him or loathe him, the former politician and one time editor of The Observer Conor Cruise O’Brien was 85 yesterday. He took a break from writing to let an interesting range of folk pay him tribute.

Demoralised prods: talking down victory

In his recent essay for Prospect magazine, Richard Kelly asks why Unionism has failed to talk up what it gained from the Belfast Agreement: “…not since Trimble emerged from Castle Buildings on 10th April 1998, declaring the union safer than when he had first sat down, has unionism said much in public that savoured of victory. The talk was only of incessant affronts to their tradition, and of a one-way track bearing intolerable concessions. Why couldn’t unionism engage? Two years … Read more


Though this is strictly outside the Letter’s remit on NI, James Crabtree provides an excellent take on the problem of quality within the weblogging phenomenon.


To Dodgeblog for linking Letter to Slugger O’Toole into the mainframe. And to the Leptard. It’s also worth having a regular look at this site from Maigh Eo. And to Mike McBride, Everything burns! Not to mention Clagnut, Lord of the Moon and Ed Driscoll from way back.

Adams speech: beyond unionism

Though this last appeal of Adams to Blair may frustrate and confuse many Unionists, it is consistent with what many Republicans have always believed; that Unionists would not be among the final arbitors of the solution to the British/Irish problem. As Irish language journalist Robert McMillan speculates, “an rud atá romhainn, measaim, ná go mbeidh seal fada idirbheartaíochta idir an dá ghrúpa is mó cumhacht – gluaiseacht na poblachta agus Rialtas na Breataine”. Or in English, “what lies ahead, I … Read more