Policing; a question of philosophy?

Neill Lochery writing in the Jeruselem Post, frames the primary conflict within the state as a tension between those who follow Hobbes’ thinking: “…humans were basically selfish creatures who would do anything to better their position. Left to themselves, he thought, people would act on their evil impulses. According to Hobbes, people therefore should not be trusted to make decisions on their own. In addition, Hobbes felt that nations, like people, were selfishly motivated. To Hobbes, each country was in … Read more

John Reid, strongman

Alison Hardie produces an excellent portrait of the Scottish Catholic ‘unionist’ Secretary of State, who with a firm knowledge of the complex detail of Scotland’s parallel sectarian daily life, has at times joyfully confounded the expectations of both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland. It goes on to compare him to previous Labour incumbents in the post.

Stormont crisis; whodunnit?

“When a corpse turned up in the classic detective story, the wise detective always asked ‘Who had a motive – who stood to gain by this foul deed?’” Jude Collins investigates.

Stormont crisis; Policing board to continue

It seems that whatever happens to the Assembly, suspension will not disrupt the Policing Boards, according to the subscription only Irish News: “A surprising outcome of the almost certain suspension will force the 19-member board to dissolve. However, in a technical move, Secretary of State John Reid is expected to immediately re-appoint the same board. The British government is now expected to suspend the assembly on Monday with Prime Minister Tony Blair outlining his views at Westminster during the week.”

Stormont crisis; local round-up

Though Unionist writer Steven King candidly admits, “regardless of who instigates the street violence in Belfast there is a vicious campaign to create ‘Taig-free’ areas of Counties Antrim and Down which attracts far less attention”, he also says that the price for re-entry into government for Sinn Fein has to be the disbanding of the IRA. Tony Blair, appears to echo this thinking: “It is an obligation in particular for everyone to realise that there can only be one democratic … Read more

Loyalist Feud

One of the most remarkable things about the last week is the way in which a series of murders and attempted murders have been totally backgrounded by the political goings on at Stormont. Gemma Murray reports: “A UDA source predicted the bloodletting could surpass the shooting war between the UDA and the UVF in the summer of 2000 which left seven men dead. ‘‘This is a major upsurge and it could be even worse than what happened on the Shankill … Read more

Stormont crisis; joy for some

I know most readers will not be able access this, but it’s too good a piece of writing to miss out of the Letter. Suzanne Breen creates a vivid picture of what it was like at Stormont on Tuesday when the two DUP ministers announced they would be resigning, on Friday. “It all started in a corridor at Stormont with the alleged photo-copying of confidential documents and it was the beginning of the end in another corridor there yesterday when … Read more

Stormont crisis; suspension is most likely outcome

Frank Millar reported yesterday, in the subscription only Irish Times, that David Trimble has given the British government until next Monday to expel Sinn Fein. He notes: “…while the British government grasped this apparent breathing space, some Whitehall sources accepted its only likely effect would be to force the British government to suspend the Executive and other institutions of government established under the Belfast Agreement either side of the weekend.” Speaking to sources within the Unionist Party, he says that … Read more

Return to the Anglo Irish Agreement?

Perhaps Brian Feeney’s speculations on the adoption of Strand 3 of the Agreement were not entirely misplaced. Bernard Purcell reports: “Irish ministers already have a say in the running of Northern Ireland through the cross-border bodies. In the event of suspension, portfolios currently devolved to ministers in the Stormont Executive will revert back to British ministers who will, in turn, deal with Irish ministers on the cross-border bodies.”

Education reform

One of the most apparent consequences of the democratic stasis that pertained in NI under direct rule, has been the lack of any decisive change in the Education system. With some slight changes, the system there remains in the same shape as it was when set up in its current form in 1947. Yesterday Northern Ireland began the first step in the road to wholesale reform; the scrapping of rigourous entrance exams into the provinces Grammar School and the re-structuring … Read more

Stormont crisis; SDLP accepts the inevitable

Mark Durkan speaking on the steps of Downing Street was at pains to make it clear the process was still alive; “…if there is suspension we want to make it very clear that the institutions of the agreement will have been injured but they have not been crippled.” Meanwhile David Trimble was clearly pushing for an expulsion of Sinn Fein Ministers at the Tory conference in Bournemouth: “Expelling Sinn Fein was the only honourable option and failing to take it … Read more

Big Bird in Belfast?

Help may be soon at hand, from the strangest of quarters.

Stormont crisis; the case for suspension

David Goodall in a comment piece in the FT writes: “What is at stake now is the British government’s credibility as a custodian of the agreement. While expelling Sinn Féin would be an overreaction, waiting wistfully for Mr Adams to make a positive move is not enough. London should declare that, for the moment at least, the degree of mutual confidence needed for a power-sharing executive to operate is lacking. The institutions will therefore be temporarily suspended. The operation of … Read more

A good enough Marriage?

Eric Waugh casts a wizened eye over the potential marriage of the North and the South, and declares it a mismatch. Of the Republic he says: “EU largesse is gone for good. Eastern European farm economies, all much poorer than the Republic, are clamouring at the table. One of the spurs to another “No” vote in the replay of the Nice referendum is that a “Yes” would open the way to the disappearance of a permanent Irish seat on the … Read more

Stormont crisis; summiteering

Tony Blair is determined to find a way through this current crisis. But don’t hold your breath!

Stormont crisis; the case for spying

Roy Greenslade in the Guardian throws the light back on the Loyalist paramilitaries, and asks why the attention seems to be exclusively on the IRA: “…the loyalist mayhem continues under the noses of police, because the IRA remains the bogeyman for the security forces – police special branch, army and MI5 – known in republican terminology as the securocrats.” On the Stormont: “If either Sinn Fein or the IRA has spied on the government, they have done so either for … Read more

Stormont crisis; Mandelson calls for elections

But only after the IRA disarm: “…the British government has to consider telling Northern Ireland’s politicians that if they aren’t going to exercise their responsibility to make power-sharing work they must face the electoral consequences of their actions at the polls. In other words, instead of immediately going back to direct rule from London, Tony Blair and John Reid should first try a democratic answer to the crisis.” “SUCH a prospect would concentrate the minds of those occupying the middle … Read more

Stormont crisis; move to strand three?

Once again in the Irish News (it may prove to be worth the next month’s subscription), Brian Feeney declares that we should forget about trying to make the Assembly work and jump to strand three of the Agreement, the part that makes provision for the British – Irish Council and the British – Irish Intergovernmental Conference. “…the Stormont assembly is not the agreement. There’s a lot more to it. In fact the British-Irish Intergovernmental Council (BIIC) of strand three is … Read more