Policing reforms

The Irish Examiner welcomes the British government’s plans to press forward with wholesale police reforms, as indicated in the Queen’s speech yesterday.

Offside in the War on Terror?

Steven King is not always consistent but he is always worth reading for an intelligent view of the Unionist case. This week he interprets some of the finer nuances from Blair’s interview with Frank Millar in the Irish Times last week, and suggests that any coming globalising conflict involving the US’s War on Terror campaign is likely Sinn Fein at a much greater distance from Irish America. This is something of a reprise of a previous theme.

Sinn Fein First Minister?

This one had passed under my notice until I picked it up from Paul Dunne at the Shamrockshire Eagle. Reg Empey warns Unionists of what he calls the ‘Fermanagh and South Tyrone syndrome’ (in which the two Unionist parties split their vote) and raises the possibility of leaving Sinn Fein opportunity of becoming the largest party after the next elections. It’s not clear from the report where such vulnerable seats are to be found.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

Or who is guarding the guards? The Newsletter argues that without the Asssmbly to scrutinise the acts of the direct rule ministers, the public needs to keep a vigilant watch. It quotes Stormont Strategy: “It is simply not good enough that we should all have to rely on questions put down in the House of Commons by MPs, and the odd press release, as the only way of dragging information out of ministers, who, with limited time each week in … Read more

Unhappy unionists: need for trust

The veteran correspondent Eric Waugh identifies three things holding back the resolution of the current crisis: “The arms issue is the first. The second is unionist restiveness over the steady advance of the involvement of Dublin in the administration of Northern Ireland. The third, recently, has become the most combustible: and that is the presence within the Executive of Ministers unwilling to acknowledge the status of the territory they helped to govern.” By the end he concludes that trust is … Read more

Omagh report to be released

Louisa Nesbitt reports that the Garda are to release findings of a three-strong committee on events around the Omagh bombing in 1998 in two weeks time.

Derry: cold house for protestants

Almost picking up from the theme of Richard Kelly’s piece in Prospect last week, Ian Starrett detects unease amongst the Unionist community in Derry.

The Clintons

Former President Bill Clinton is to receive an award from Irish American Democrats during St Patrick’s week. His wife Hilary, now Senator for New York, is planning to visit Enniskillen for the anniversary of the signing of the Belfast Agreement.

Wilson on Stormont reform

Sammy Wilson goes into bat for the DUP. With his customary predilection for hyperbole – he twice within the space of two sentences accuses McGuinness of having a Stalinist vision over education reform. But he also raises serious shortcomings in the institutions established under the Belfast Agreement. Roughly speaking these are: the power and scope of the First and Deputy First Minster’s Office – the target for almost 50% of the article; lack of accountability of Minsters, particularly to the … Read more

Pelosi: strong interest in Ireland

Sean O’Driscoll speculates that a leading candidate for leadership of the Democrats in the House of Representatives has a close interest in Irish affairs. However with the party’s poor showing in the recent mid-term elections, even if she is successful, it is hard to see when Nancy Pelosi will be in a position to exercise much influence.

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