No minister

Looks like the minister for roads in Northern Ireland may face prosecution for blocking one of them.

Nationlist backroom

Brian Feeney beleives the UUP is on track to rip up the whole Belfast Agreement. He quotes Gerry Adams: “Even if by some Santa Claus intervention the IRA disbanded by Christmas, it is not enough for unionists. There are that many conditions in this UUP policy it would be impossible unless we ceased to be nationalists.”

Narrow middle ground

Henry McDonald paints a grizzly picture of the path the UUP appears to have chosen, suggesting that not only is it prejudicial to their own success, but that it can only weaken the position of their closest allies in the peace process, the moderate nationalist SDLP: “Mark Durkan looked visibly drained by the news from the Ulster Unionist Council meeting. He no doubt understands even if the unionists don’t, that their threat to pull power sharing down only strengthens Sinn … Read more

What happened to the middle ground?

Presumably substantially written before the UUP deadline was set last weekend, this Adrian Guelke article in the latest Fortnight magazine still manages to read like a political postmortem. However he formulates a number of interesting questions for mainstream Unionism. Not least, what has happened to the middle ground since the Belfast Agreement? He returns to a previous era: “Whereas Brian Faulkner behaved after January 1974 as if Gerry Fitt of the SDLP had just become his closest political ally, Trimble’s … Read more

Best weBlogs

Here’s the Guardian’s selection of the best and the good.

Loyalist Feud?

Rosie Cowan adds detail to this growing story. One senior paramilitary speaking about controversial paramilitary leader, Johnny Adair told her: “…the chances of someone trying to kill Adair, who has survived several republican and loyalist murder attempts, were extremely high. ‘That would be a nightmare, because it would turn him into a martyr, like Billy Wright. Lots more people would die in his name and families would be torn apart. The UDA motto is Quis Separabit – Who will separate … Read more

Beyond doomsday?

Chris Thornton explores Sinn Fein’s current thinking in the aftermath of last weekend’s UUC meeting. In the subscription only Irish News, Brian Feeney puts the current situation more bluntly: “Concentrating on the scheduled collapse of the Stormont executive on January 18 has obscured the size of the swing in sentiment against power sharing in the UUP and as a consequence, the comprehensive nature of the victory of the UUP’s anti-agreement element on Saturday. It doesn’t really matter whether the executive … Read more

Cash crisis

Bush to cut funding under the Civic Link programme in Northern Ireland?

Other parties

Paddy Roche, who was recently excluded from the Assembly for remarks made about a fellow MLA, has announced he will be standing down for the next election. The fervent wish of a small but growing number of Trade Unionists is for the British Labour party to organise in NI. Trade Unionist, Andy McGivern travels to Blackpool at the weekend in hopes of a lifting of the party’s current ban.

Policing drama

Sinn Fein have condemned recent attacks on police recruits. Whilst not encouraging anyone to join the PSNI, Gerry Kelly told the Newlsletter that: “I am making it directly clear now that there should be no intimidation or threats against new recruits.” He went on: “People should not participate in a police force which falls short of the acceptable civic policing service which we all desire.” And then: “Joining or not joining the PSNI is a matter for the individual concerned.” … Read more

Crime rates

The latest crime figures were released a few days ago, giving rise to a number of headlines (see here and here) highlighting the sharp rise in the numbers of bombings and shootings and a proportionate drop in the number of people charged since the year the Belfast Agreement was signed. This may help to account for the accute discomfort felt by many people in province at the seemingly unending nature of the process, and its apparent lack of success in … Read more

Loyalist feud?

Brian Rowan looks at some of the internal politics after the expulsion of Johnny Adair from the UDA. David Gordon asks ‘what happens next?’ The Scotsman reports: “…a demand was made for east Belfast, south Belfast and south-east Antrim UDA brigadiers to quit their posts. The Red Hand Defenders – a grouping believed to be a cover for the LVF and Adair’s unit – called on three commanders to resign or face ‘military action’.” It appears that the UDA are … Read more

Irish travellers in the US

Interesting revelation of a subset of Irish emigrants. Thanks to Smoke Signals for the link.

Benefits of the Belfast agreement

On the subscription only Irish News site, Jude Collins publishes his list of 5 things he believes Unionism has gained from the Belfast Agreement: 1. Articles 2 and 3. Remember when we used to chafe at the Republic’s claim to the North in its constitution? It’s gone now. That’s nice. 2. The principle of consent. Remember when we used to rail at the way nationalists and republicans refused to accept that the majority of people in this state want to … Read more

Countryside alliance

Steven King rides a long and winding narrative here trying to explain just how complex a mix of interest the countryside lobby is in Northern Ireland. The truth is that this issue hasn’t much impacted the wider consciousness of people in NI, because the legal moves to outlaw foxhunting will not effect things there. But, as King argues, it may make it easier for such legislation to be extended to the North. For a wider argument on the subject try … Read more

Loyalists in crisis

It looks like the murky waters of Loyalist paramiltary organisations are beginning to move quickly. Fears are increasing of a new feud within loyalism, this time between the splinter organisation the LVF and the UDA. The expulsion of Johnny Adair, the leader of the West Belfast UDA, has led to: “A number of senior loyalists immediately left their homes for secret locations, believing that the move would inevitably lead to serious conflict on the streets of Belfast and elsewhere. The … Read more


The reconciliation business is not what it once was.

Comments starting to take off

Natalie Solent described reading McIntyre’s article as like falling “…into an alternative universe.” And in the comments field here, David Steven suggests that the debate in Northern Ireland does not seem to got stuck in a negative game of saving face. Newton Emerson has kindly reproduced his article on Ulster Scots the comments field here. When the re-design comes, one day soon, we hope to provide a more fitting home for such pieces on Letter to Slugger O’Toole. If you … Read more

What does British mean?

In the subscription based Irish News, Newton Emerson takes a swipe at some members of the Ulster Scots movement, but in the process comes up with a fresh definition of what his ‘Britishness’ means to him: “…I value my identity precisely because there’s no standard definition of what ‘British’ means. There’s a heritage and a history, but no obligation to regard any of it as positive. You note what your compatriots are doing, but you don’t have to like it. … Read more

Policing drama

Gerry Adams believes that the decision of the UUC at the weekend (see here) will encourage an increase in sectarian murders. Despite his party’s close ties with the Loyalist paramilitary organisation UVF, Billy McCaughey of the PUP insists that policing should be left to the PSNI. The release of the latest crime figures will not have bolstered the confidence of the same body: “Irwin Montgomery, of the Police Federation, blamed sectarian rioting and the terrorist threat. He said: ‘The amount … Read more