American in Andersonstown

Just picked this up from the archives at Samizdata, one of the most prolific and well organised weblogs on the net. It’s one man’s outsider view (from the inside) on the range of paramilitaries currently active in Northern Ireland. The style is brusque and American, and he finishes with something of a stylish flourish: “Some day there may be a vote here on which country we are to be a part of. I suspect by the time it happens the … Read more

And there's more

Ian Paisley, erstwhile leader of the DUP, calls for the dissolution of the current Assembly rather than to prolong the current crisis until the new year. Noel McAdam weighs up what it might mean to Trimble. And in the subscription only Irish News, Roy Garland suggests that things may not be as bad as some liberal Unionists currently believe: “Ulster Unionists have signalled they cannot absorb any more fudging and the ball is now with the republican movement. The British … Read more

Other Unionist voices

From Beowulf at Carisenda: “Keep picking fights you can’t win guys, keep reacting with your heart and not your head, keep up the in-fighting, the splits, the tantrums – I’m sure Gerry and the lads have a nice fat smile on their faces watching you slowly tear yourselves apart.” It has to be said that this shift to the right within the party has been touted almost since the beginning of the summer. The Letter picked up first indications in … Read more

Wider reaction

John Reid is typically sanguine, suggesting that all sides will need to full committment to turn around a history at least 80 years in the making. Gerry Adams condemned it as a Wreckers Charter; “…if the unionists refuse to be part of that process then the two governments must proceed anyway. Today’s victory for the no camp will not deter us and will not stop the process of change. That will only happen if we give up and we and … Read more

Unionist backroom

It’s all over bar the shouting. In the ninth meeting of the ruling Ulster Unionist Council since the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, David Trimble was forced to deliver an ultimatum to Sinn Fein that the IRA disarm and disband by the 18th January 2003. A boycott of the North/South ministerial bodies begins immediately. Some Unionists, like David Burnside, believe that Sinn Fein will inevitable fail to satisfy Unionist demands for ‘definitive disarmament’. But it is likely that … Read more

One last comment before the weekend…

The whole week’s commentary in Northern Ireland seems to have been bent towards one event; the meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council, which may or may not decide the fate of their reform-minded leader, David Trimble (more here, here, here, here and here). Whatever happens this weekend, it is unlikely to be the end of what is becoming one of the longest running Soap opera plots in the recent history of Northern Ireland. But I’ll leave the final word to … 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.

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.


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

Unionist backroom

As the weekend meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council approaches, more and more journalists turn their attention to the expected showdown between David Trimble and the hardliners in his party, a group who in the Assembly at least can be expected to have greater influence than in the past. Rosie Cowan describes one of the more youthful dissident voices within the Unionist Party, Arlene Foster as a “young, articulate, up-and-coming solicitor, mother of a two-year-old and an 18-week-old baby, and … Read more


Thanks to the refreshingly poetic Carisenda for the positive mention (seems to have a bit of a Robert Frost thing going at the moment). I was interested to see such a disparate crew as Hawkgirl, the Badger, Malachi O’Doherty, and myself all described as members of the Unionist intelligensia. Terry over at Fenian Ramblings will be upset he wasn’t included in the count (his latest is an overview of current situation in NI). It is indeed strange brave new world.

Realignment; past lessons

There has been some speculation recently about the realignment of political parties in Northern Ireland; for instance the SDLP merging with Fianna Fail, or the UUP reintegrating with the Conservatives in Britain. It’s always interesting to look at how such ‘separate development’ came about in the first place, so here’s an interesting dialogue between James Connolly and the northern protestant socialist, William Walker.

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

Unionist backroom

Public insults are part of the stock in trade of all NI political parties, with the possible exception of the SDLP the Alliance party, and the Women’s Coalition. Steven King’s extraordinary headline in last night’s Belfast Telegraph, Scumbaggery feeling squeeze, should be read within that context. In fact the message within the article is much more outreaching than the headline implies. He quotes from a recent book by Henry Patterson, to warn Unionists of the dangers of ‘hoping that the … Read more

Policing drama

John Reid confirms the creation of a ceasefire monitor. Richard Haass agrees. Sinn Fein dismiss it as a stunt to help David Trimble out of a sticky situation. Suzanne Breen agrees, but takes an opportunity to excoriate the quality of NI politicians in general. Brian Cowen adds his voice to the pressure for Sinn Fein to jump onto the policing board. The final decision on joining the police board (or not) will be taken for Sinn Fein by its ruling … Read more


For more on weblogs and how they’re used, there are several good articles on the net, here, here and here. For a glossary of weblogging try this. And welcome back to the new, more stylish Brendan O’Neill.