SDLP: not stooping down low

Mark Durkan in interview with Seán MacCárthaigh, refutes the old insult that it is simply offering weak compromise to the Nationalist constituency. Towards the end he speculates intriguingly about the future pattern of party politics in Ireland: “I’m open to wider realignment. But people are talking about a merger between the SDLP and an existing southern party; I see things in a more fluid context. People think the parties in the south exist as they are, in perpetuity, and I …

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Adams speech

It’s a week now since Gerry Adams gave his speech in Monaghan, but like Blair’s the week before in Belfast it is worth looking at again. He addressed his opening remarks to the sacrifices of the past. He emphasised the need for policies on an all-Ireland basis. He focused on the the future, and said there would be no return to the past. He welcomed Blair’s speech and offered hope of agreement on policing. But his last appeal was directly …

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Adams speech: expectations

He touches on the expectations that have been raised by the peace process for Republicans: “Our task in the decade ahead is to provide the leadership needed to challenge the status quo. Our goal must be to exercise the political will and resolve to ensure that the voices of the neglected and deprived in our society are given their rightful place in decision making in the future. “This is the New Ireland we are struggling for. An Ireland of equals. …

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Call for Republican leadership

Paul Dunne has a compendium of responses to Adams. But the most interesting thing I’ve read to date was written in anticipation of, rather than in reponse to Saturday’s speech. John Lloyd has consistently made the case for the Trimble’s position, however he chooses to concludes this longish and largley predictable article (subscription needed) by suggesting Republicans could play a key role in bringing the process to a successful conclusion: “There is a role that no republican or nationalist has …

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Unionist backroom: vision trip

So we are back in hiatus territory yet again. John Reid took his first Northern Ireland question time in Westminster since the suspension of the devolved institutions. But all such periods in NI are risky. The essential gambit in Tony Blair’s speech last night was to take pressure off Unionists and place it on the only party in the Executive with official links to a paramilitary army. But there are signs that in the absence of the political chamber at …

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Stormont crisis; and finally..

The BBC reports that the Assembly is indeed to be suspended on Monday. They also provide a handy Q&A routine covering the main issues of the past week and the glowering future. Here’s another one at the Belfast Telegraph.

Stormont crisis; Unionist releif

Rosie Cowan captures something of the emotional relief of Unionists in this article. Something that is shared by pro and anti agreement alike, possibly based on the moral incongruity of having to work with people whose clear intention is to work as democrats (Sinn Fein), but whose military arsenal has made it increasingly difficult to countenance the shared future that most people in the North of Ireland desperately crave!

The Raid on Sinn Fein

A man was arrested this morning, as the plot thickens. Sinn Fein themselves clearly believe this is a politically motivated move to support the First Minister David Trimble. Gerry Kelly: “It’s about blackening Sinn Fein to let David Trimble off the hook – it is politically unbelievable.” The First Minister himslef did little to dispel such a notion: “David Trimble said it would have ‘grave implications’ for the future of the power-sharing government at Stormont. He said he suspected IRA …

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Colombia coming to a head

Three men, believed to be intimately connected with the IRA, face the judge today in Colombia charged with giving aid to the leftist guerilla organisation FARC. Apparent inconsistencies in two separate forensic tests will be at the heart of the three men’s defence. Rosie Cowan outlines the evidence for and against: Prosecution: evidence of explosives residue on the three men’s clothing; a Farc defector, the former driver of one of the Marxist guerrilla group’s leaders, says that the three were …

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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 …

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The Agreement and demography

Newton Emerson freshens up the debate, on the agreement with a vigourous moral defence of the Belfast agreement against the purist line take by both Republicans and Unionists. The dreaded 2001 census figures are expected come in a month behind schedule. Some believe the proportion of Catholics will have risen to 46/47%. However, as mentioned before, it is unlikely to translate directly into a similar level vote for a united Ireland in any future border poll . As one Catholic …

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Other unionist voices

With David Trimble on holiday, the local papers seem to be giving more space to other Unionist voices. On the front of today’s Irish News is Trevor Ringland, founding member of Unionist pressure group Re-Union, who said last night that though party colleagues were angered by the ongoing attacks at interface areas, it was essential that they condemned the “wrongs of both sides”. He went on, “if we want to advance the benefits of living in a British society then …

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Education and the economy

Sammy Wilson drops his usual penchant for the one-liner and uses a recent IoD report to argue that the NI economy needs a strong vocational element within its educational system, and will suffer, if Martin McGuinness’s educational reforms go through. The four page summary makes no specific mention of Northern Ireland, but warns against the one-size fits all approach that some have accused the Minister of adopting. The issue has divided opinion down traditional lines, ever since the publication of …

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Crisis deepens..

Trimble is by several accounts preparing for a serious split with John Reid: “Mr Trimble’s confidence in Dr Reid is believed to have fallen sharply after the MP for Upper Bann suggested a security initiative after a break-in at Castlereagh police station in March, for which the Provisional IRA has been blamed. Mr Trimble’s advisers said that he expected Dr Reid to relay the information to Tony Blair but, they say, he was surprised several weeks later to discover that …

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Headline politics

The funeral of Gerard Lawlor took place yesterday. Meanwhile the pressure on Trimble is palpably coming from all sides of the UUP, thought it is clear no final action will be taken until the Party meets in September. The Belfast Telegraph tries to add a longer term perspective on the security situation at least: “Nerves are still on edge, heightened by the weekend’s shooting spree, but the government has provided some much-needed guidelines for the future, which the paramilitaries will …

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From other Irish weblogs

Thanks to fellow blogger Brendan O’Neill for featuring the Letter at the top of his short piece on Irish weblogs. Our stats software has packed up for the rest of the week apparently, so I have no idea how many are reading it just now. If you have any comments, please send them in. Terry McMenamin tries to get to grips with what is really driving the DUP‘s political agenda. In truth it is hard to get to the bottom …

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Mixed reactions

There is some cautious optimism that today’s statement by Tony Blair will have the desired effect, though Jeffrey Donaldson holds on to the hard bottom line: “Anything that falls short of an effective exclusion mechanism is not worth the paper it’s written on,” he insisted. “Equally, the idea that we can draw a line under Colombia, Castlereagh and the violence on the streets of Belfast is a non starter. Republicans must be held to account for what they have done, …

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Census 2001: Some preliminary thoughts

There’s only weeks to go before the results of the 2001 census are announced, we’ve not heard much in recent times about the demographic timebomb that awaits the Northern Ireland electorate. Though the proportion of the electorate voting Nationalist has risen exponentially in the last 30 years, the implications are not as clear-cut as it may seem on first sight. One Unionist politician I spoke to recently was at pains to point out that everyone is behaving as though the …

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IRA apology

As you might imagine the big story of the day is the latest statement from the IRA. Most punters are predictably split on what (if any significance) it has for the ‘ailing’ peace process. The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern welcomed the statement, whilst David Trimble immediately countered it with the suggestion that “the apology from the IRA tonight may have been prompted by the investigative pieces on which some journalists have been working for the anniversary of bloody Friday in a …

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Conservative policy

Simon Heffer believes Trimble has no choice but to move rightwards. Conor Cruise O’Brien pops his head above the parapet for the first time in a while and gives more immediate counsell: “What Trimble and all other unionists should be doing right now is keeping the spotlight on Colombia and the IRA’s links with FARC. In this way he will embarrass both Sinn Fein and the British and Irish Governments.” Meantime, in yesterday’s debate in Westminster the Lib Dem’s Northern …

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