Independent Republican Cllrs Confirm as Candidates in 2011

This should make the 2011 local council election in Magherafelt interesting.  The Irish News reports today that The brother of IRA hunger striker Francis Hughes has confirmed he will stand against Sinn Féin in next year’s local council elections.  Oliver Hughes sits on Magherafelt District Council as an independent republican representative for Moyola district after resigning in 2006 with former Sinn Féin colleague Patsy Groogan over what they described as “internal differences”.  Mr Groogan also confirmed he intends to stand … Read more

“How many school yards now ring out to nationalist or republican songs like ours did?”

One of the most striking things about Barry Flynn’s great evocation of the IRA’s 1950’s border campaign was the degree to which the shooting of IRA volunteers Sean South and Fergal O’Hanlon seemed to galvanise pro Republic sentiment south of the border. That was reprised with the death of the ten hunger strikers of the early 80s. But in the absence of conflict and death from Northern Ireland the south has simply presumed all is well and settled and has … Read more

Swotting the SF challenge in Donegal SW and beyond

Firstly the threats and weaknesses. Obviously, Sinn Féin are, and are maybe always going to be, dogged by the legacy of the IRA’s role in the conflict. That’s not going to go away. At the same time the historical impact of Section 31 is probably still the mitigating factor when it comes to attracting transfers and Sinn Féin’s difficulty in converting first preferences into seats. It is often forgotten that Sinn Féin members were banned from the media under Section 31 of … Read more

Clash looms with Westminster over welfare to work

 This could be a very thorny issue for the Assembly and Executive.  Nearly all the local parties will hate the coalition’s welfare to work policies. Politically they wouldn’t dare do otherwise. But this pushes them right up against their limitations. Alex Attwood the SDLP’s Social Development minister has branded as  “Thatcherite” the coalition’s plans to cut welfare payments for at least three months if voluntary work is not accepted. The Scots are also up in arms. But the Scots appear to … Read more

“cutting their own pay and numbers is more for the optics than the effect”

The BBC reports that the Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a motion, proposed by the NI First Minister, DUP leader Peter Robinson, wearing his East Belfast MLA hat, calling on the independent Assembly Commission “to reduce its running costs in line with the level of reduction faced by Executive Departments.” The Belfast Telegraph report notes, On Monday [Peter Robinson] outlined a range of further cost-cutting steps including the voluntary freezing or reducing of ministerial or Assembly member costs and ending the subsidy of Assembly … Read more

Political Innovation in Belfast: New ideas for old problems

This Saturday we have over 80 people booked up to come to the Political Innovation event in Edinburgh at the weekend, with the topics of conversation being shaped up at our uservoice site. The week afterwards (20th November) we’re convening at NICVA for the Belfast event (book your place here). In both cases the political context is similar. There are important elections coming in May for the Assembly and the local councils. At the moment the top three conversations for … Read more

The “Top Secret” Press Release

One has to admire the sheer chutzpah of Brendan McFarlane. He was in Saturday’s Irish News trying to pass off a 1981 press release as a secret comm reflecting the personal viewpoint of Richard O’Rawe. Mr McFarlane said yesterday he would break five years of silence by producing secret IRA comms written by Mr O’Rawe during the Hunger Strike in which he accused the British government of trying to prolong it. The first first two lines of the original comm read: … Read more

Forget about platforms. Why not just do it?

Eamonn McCann thinks talking about change will have limited appeal unless it comes with a proposal for material change that people will be motivated to vote for: History teaches that the only occasions when sizable numbers of Protestants and Catholics have detached themselves from communal allegiance to make common cause have been occasions when they came together to fight together – 1907, 1911, 1932 and onwards to 2010. There is no recorded case of any such thing happening as a … Read more

SDLP: Minds clouded by SF?

A passing glance at the SDLP party conference caused me to think they had a little too much emphasis on SF. So, I ran their leader’s speech through a word cloud to find out when Sinn Féin appeared on the list of most mentioned phrases. You hit ‘Sinn’ as the 10th most popular word during Margaret Ritchie’s address to the faithful. It beat ‘economy’. Mark McGregorBlogging at: http://heartsofoakandsteel.wordpress.com http://heartsofoakandsteel.wordpress.com

Glentoran – goal of the year….

Matty Burrows’ wonder goal against Portadown has been shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or-Puskas award. No wonder – it’s astonishing. ……and this one wasn’t bad… DewiWelsh Nationalist. Rugby Fan. Know a bit about History and Railways…

Roger Fenton – the first war photographer

The run up to the 11th November seems as good a time as any to produce the first in an occasional series of essays on photographers. I’m starting with Roger Fenton who produced the first ever published photographs from a war zone. It seems all the more relevant after hearing earlier last week that South African war photographer, João Silva lost portions of both his legs after stepping on a land mine in Afghanistan. The differences in the genre since Fenton embarked on his historic expedition … Read more

Ócáid phoiblí: Speak Irish on Facebook Day

An mbeidh foireann margaíochta sásta le 36,942 daoine ag freastail ar ócáid phoiblí ar an gréasán meáin sóisialta Facebook? Bhuel, sin an méid cuairteoirí atá ag ‘Speak Irish on Facebook Day’, tosaíodh ar an gréasán meáin sóisialta sin ag beirt déagóirí ógá ó Béal Feirste (as tuaisceart an chathair, fósta). Bhunaigh Ruairí Ó hÉigeartaigh agus Dónal de Brún é i Lúnasa seo chaite. Inniu, deirtear ag 36,942 daoine go mbeidh siad ag freastail ar an ócáid phoiblí seo (agus tá go leor … Read more

SDLP Conference (updated with a couple of interviews)

I caught up with SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie on this morning just after she had finished rehearsing her leaders speech in the empty hall. 1.30pm Having escaped from the conference to the side of a humid swimming pool, I reflect that the Ramada Hotel wasn’t anywhere near as well attended as their February conference in Newcastle. It does seem strange that with the election in May, the SDLP didn’t just postpone again until February and use the conference as a … Read more

McGlone rallies the faithful at opening night of SDLP conference

There was relatively little Twitter traffic from the SDLP conference on Friday night. This could just point to the party being gathered together and meeting face-to-face. But given the opportunity for putting out positive messages about their party’s thinking and plans, the low level of news might just point to a much smaller gathering than the masses who turned up for February’s leadership election conference weekend. In his Friday night speech, SDLP deputy leader and director of elections Patsy McGlone … Read more

Two police officers injured in west Belfast explosion

Two police officers are reported to have been injured in an explosion in west Belfast after a device was thrown at them as they investigated reports of a robbery at a bookmakers on the Shaws Road.  According to the reports the injuries are not life-threatening but one officer sustained serious arm injuries. Adds  “ONH and the other dissident groups cannot succeed where, as they point out themselves, the Provos failed” Update  The BBC are now reporting that three officers were injured … Read more

Britain’s “Abu Ghraib.” Lessons of internment ignored

I’m not usually in favour of projecting the past onto the present but in this case the usual mantra,”  lessons have been learned”  has been totally ignored.  First came the relatively mild strictures of the Compton Report      We consider that the following actions constitute physical ill-treatment; posture on the wall, hooding, noise, deprivation of sleep, diet of bread and water.   On 8 February 1977, in proceedings before the ECHR, and in line with the findings of the Parker … Read more

The Centre-Left in Northern Ireland. Time to step over the obstacles?

As the SDLP gather this weekend, here’s a question for you: As Northern Ireland’s political landscape is still dominated by parties that are essentially communal, is it properly equipped to respond to the challenges posed by the global economic crisis? Personally, I doubt it. From what I’ve seen, the response so far has been a mixture of gesture politics and incoherence. And while there may be early signs of what may aim to be a post-communal political force on the … Read more

Fred Cobain on the UUP / Tory link

Sam McBride, the political editor of the News Letter has an interesting article covering an interview with UUP Chief Whip Fred Cobain. Cobain is a trade unionist and a former member of the NI Labour Party which might sort of make him a civic unionist of a generation or more ago. In his interview, however, he suggests that the UUP should break the link with the Conservative Party unless they help change the St Andrew’s legislation to ensure that the … Read more

Political Innovation: Building in your own agenda…

You may have seen the announcement post for the Political Innovation event that we’re holding at NICVA’s HQ (thanks NICVA!) on the 20th (tickets and detail here – and there’s a Scottish event planned for the 13th as well). We’re keen not to set the agenda too tightly. It won’t have any named speakers or a timetable. If you want to bring something up, you can – as long as other people are interested as well. Have a look at … Read more