Monday, July 08, 2002

The peace line in Belfast is multiplying and fragmenting, and it seems there is a similar multiplicity of motives for wanting them there. Of all the political ‘coups’ of the last week, Gearoid O’Caireallain regards Maskey’s wreathlaying as the most masterful strategic move of the lot. The Orange leadership at Drumcree seems to be under fire from some who suspect them of having become soft.

Stormont implementation group meets…

The meeting of the pro-agreement parties at Hillsborough today seems to have had a mixed reception. Some are complaining that David Trimble is not showing it the regard he should, in leaving it to his Stormont Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt. However this may have the more mundane (and hopeful??) explanation that this group will be meeting more regularly to more effectively manage the implimentation of the Belfast Agreement.


For a week from tomorrow, there will be a break in ‘transmission’ whilst I go off, get married and take a quick honeymoon. When I return the Letter will move to its new home at:, and normal service will be resumed!

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Mayor Maskey decides discretion is the better part of valor (for now at least) over the commemoration of the Somme in Belfast. It may be too soon for both his own and Unionist supporters in the City. Meanwhile Mark Durkan launches his brand New Nationalism, anchored, he says, in the principles of the Belfast Agreement.

SDLP launches new logo and ‘outreach’ to unionism

The SDLP reveal their new logo today, retaining socialist red, with a slight tinge of nationalist green, and a full crescent of unionist orange. This, and its shift in language from a ‘united’ to ‘integrated Ireland’, is being seen by some as a part of longer term campaign to open up to the Unionist tradition.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

As claim and counterclaim proliferate over collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, there is a first few tentative calls for something like a truth commission to bring the conflict to some kind of final rest. Whilst Ulster does its usual summer trick of ritually beating itself up, there may be a thread of hope that no conflict can drag on forever. James Murray Brown speculates that: “There is a hope that this summer could see the quietest Drumcree in … Read more

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

The SDLP is the subject of much speculation these days. It appears to be making overtures to Unionists by incorporating the colour orange into it’s new logo.

Nascanna níos láidre idir Fianna Fail agus an SDLP?

Fiafraíonn Robert McMillen an bhfuil baill áirithe d’Fhianna Fáil ag breath chun nascanna níos láidre a chothú idiru féin agus an SDLP, de bhri go bhfuil Sinn Féin ag éirí níos láidre mar pháirtí?

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Whilst the controversy over collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitary death squads continues, there is a new wave of more skeptical coverage of the story. From Malachi O’Doherty who suggests that pushing further is a serious form of illogic for Agreement parties who have already accepted an amnesty on all paramilitaries, to Eilis O’Hanlon who suggests that if such investigation is good enough for one side it is valid for the other.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Whilst the hiatus pundits are still speculating about when the executive will next break down, there are still several ministers who are showing a passion for the job of government. Martin McGuinness at Education said at the weekend “I intend to do something before the end of this parliamentary term, which lays out before the people what I believe to be the foundation stones on the future of education in this state for some period to come.” There are signs … Read more

Monday, June 24, 2002

Here’s a few encouraging words about ‘Letter to Slugger O’Toole’ from Spiked-online journalist Brendan O’Neill.

Monday, June 24, 2002

Looks like the UUP are getting caught by the off-side rule yet again in their efforts to get the Parades Commission to re-consider it’s ruling against the Orange Order over the Garvaghy Road route. The Order themselves are not happy, after the Commission binned their proposals from last year, even though they were considered “…a significant advance on the order’s previous position and might provide a basis on which the parties could move forward.”

Monday, June 24, 2002

Ahern and Blair are to call a meeting of all the Pro-agreement parties next week. The Stevens enquiry rumbles on in the Guardian, whilst the Independent emphasises that MI5 actively obstructed the investigation of the Finucane case. Neil McKay in the Sunday Herald went as far as to suggest that Margaret Thatcher was the one who first ordered such collusion. Meanwhile Kevin Myers calls for a quid pro quo if there is to be a long term continuation of inquiries.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

One little note in the Guardian today says that the Castlereagh job was an inside affair.

Friday, June 21, 2002

The sniping at Trimble continues as Sammy Wilson of the DUP suggests, “Trimble and his political allies repeated time and time again that the Agreement provided the Government with the powers to exclude those who did not genuinely give up violence. Four years on, he is now admitting that those powers do not exist and need to be introduced”. Father Des Wilson hits Trimble from the ‘other side’, pouring scorn on the idea that he may resign. The Belfast Telegraph … Read more

Thursday, June 20, 2002

More from the irrascable Brendan O’Neill, who really can’t stand the patronising attitude of some towards the Irish football team’s sojourn in the World Cup. No doubt the fact that the Irish fans were seen as the best of the tournament is only more provocation. But in terms of public diplomacy, there are some benefits to being seen as ‘cuddly’! Mark Leonard of the Foreign Policy Centre’s latest book looks at the idea from a British point of view.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Trimble continues to apply pressure with the threat of leaving his post. Wrapped in similar metaphors, Nationalist commentator Maurice Hayes calls it marching, whilst Unionist columnist Steven King sees it as walking. This discussion explores some aspects of the two competing Unionist agendas. Some musing from Paul Fitzsimmons on the long term effect of extreme views clashing. The SDLP take on Sinn Fein over proliferation of flags in the streets. On the other side following the screening of the first … Read more

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

With a Panorama documentary on BBC TV tonight, papers are full of stories relating to alleged collusion between the police and the paramilitaries. David McKittrick, John Ware, and David Sharrock have all written extensive articles. Rumours of the impending collapse of the peace process unless there is an increase in the confidence of the Unionist population. Pressure continues to be applied to Blair to move against Sinn Fein over alleged breaches of the IRA ceasefire. Here’s an web discussion on … Read more

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Peter Robinson’s appeal against the legality of the re-election of the First and Deputy First Minister comes to a head next Monday. It could lead to the meltdown, many have talked about and few outside the growing ranks of DUP supporters have wished for. Some commentators argue that breaking democratic rules has a limited lifespan in NI. Trimble takes the initiative with Sinn Fein. Malachi O’Doherty provides an interesting take on IRA military strategy during the peace process. There have … Read more

Monday, June 17, 2002

It’s summer and trouble continues: in the streets and in the political backrooms, though the real threat to Trimble may come in form of next month’s meeting of the UUP’s executive. In Belfast Mayor Maskey intends to embrace the Union Jack AND the Tricolour. His taking office after several previously failed attempts, marks the end of protestant Belfast, according to Andy Gimson in The Spectator. Eilis O’Hanlon highlights the double spin being played around last week’s trouble in East Belfast. … Read more