London Letter: A new flag for Northern Ireland?

A Tory MP said yesterday that Northern Ireland should have its own recognised flag, but is it realistic to think that the people of Northern Ireland could ever become united under one flag, symbol and nation? The MP in question, Andrew Rosindell, dressed his dog, Spike, in a union flag waistcoat whilst campaigning during the 1997 election, and is known for being in favour of firearm ownership, the death penalty and the detention of asylum seekers. “Northern Ireland is the … Read more

Student finance goes nationalist in a four-way UK split. Can it last?

So devolution looks like producing four different solutions to the problems of student funding, at least in the short term. The latest from Scotland is to charge strangers from the rest of UK so that young Scots can continue to enjoy a no fees regime in their native land. The money follows Welsh students anywhere in the UK, as Dewi celebrates and recommends NI follow. Iain McWhirter may be right, that the SNP may take a political trick with this … Read more

Christmas Quiz (1)

Ok, adopting the Welsh approach toward Education (No league tables or competition more a communal quest for collective knowledge) here’s the Christmas Quiz. See if between all you can get all questions correct, without using Wiki / google (or even books), by next Monday? 1. Dr William Price, the 19th century Welsh Chartist / Philospher / Physician etc etc. famously cremated his first born boy. What was the child’s name? 2. Which was the only part of the present day … Read more

Sinn Féin: “There is not a shred of evidence linking republicans to the Northern Bank robbery…”

While Taoiseach Brian Cowen refused to answer any questions on the issue, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Justice Minister, Dermot Ahern and Health Minister Mary Harney have all re-stated the Irish government’s 2005 assessment that the Sinn Féin leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness had prior knowledge of the Northern Bank robbery. And a report in The Irish News today notes that Sinn Féin’s view that there is “not a shred of evidence” to link the IRA to the robbery of … Read more

Wikileaks: “What [Sinn Féin] cannot stand, he said, is skepticism.”

The Guardian has a good round-up of most of the significant Process™ related sections of the US Embassy cables released by Wikileaks.  But there are a few sections worth highlighting in that they corroborate elements of other accounts that have been published previously.  In particular the account by Mary-Alice Clancy. From a US Embassy cable dated 04 February 2005 5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that the GOI’s approach to the peace process was to “sit tight” and let Sinn Fein find its way back. Equally, … Read more

Public Thinkers Beyond The University?

Last week a BBC Radio 3 scheme looking for “a new generation of public intellectuals” closed. Initiated in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the scheme aimed to unearth a new wave of public thinkers with an expressed “interest in broader cultural debate”. The competition was open to all – as long as you worked inside a university and in a discipline that the AHRC supports (so economists, political scientists, sociologists, etc, were all excluded as well … Read more

MI5 make conditional offer on Finucane – WikiLeaks

Unless Iran is your patch, this is probably the most interesting Wikileaks outing to date. The Security Service’s offer is revealed in a cable from June 2005, written by the US ambassador to Dublin, James C Kenny, which reported on a meeting between the head of MI5 and Mitchell Reiss, the US special envoy to Northern Ireland. In an account of the meeting between Reiss and Ahern, the ambassador wrote: “Reiss briefed him on his talks in London, including with … Read more

Why referendums should be banned

In the not too-distant, we are going to be offered a referendum to decide which voting system we prefer in the UK and Northern Ireland. This is the equivalent of being offered a trial-by-combat to decide who should be awarded a peace prize. There is little evidence that referendums make a vote fair. Nor are they widely seen as a means of forming good policies. Yet they have gradually slipped into the British constitution in recent years without much discussion … Read more

Irish Labour Party: “We may not be in a position to build the road from Dublin…”

Thanks to today’s Irish News we have the response from the Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, to comments from Irish Labour Party transport spokesman, Joe Costello, which cast doubt on the proposed £850million upgrade of the A5 between Londonderry and Aughnacloy. From the Irish News report Mr Murphy said last night it was too late for the Republic to back out of its commitment to the project because the contract had already been signed and a payment plan … Read more

Anti-Irish upsurge predicted in Britain over Pope’s poaching

Rathfriland farmer’s son Francis Campbell, (seen above giving British diplomatic uniform a rare outing), until recently British ambassador to the Holy See,  is one of the latest to appear in WikiLeaks, warning of possible serious consequences of the Pope’s clumsy offer to receive dissident Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church. Campbell told Noyes ( a US diplomat) “Anglican-Vatican relations were facing their worst crisis in 150 years as a result of the pope’s decision”, a cable sent to Washington shortly afterwards revealed. … Read more

Queen’s standards or keep fees down? To govern is to choose

Northern Ireland MPs were united in their comfort zone yesterday to oppose the big rise in university tuition fees, a position said to be endorsed by leading business woman Joanna Stuart conducting a review into the local scene. But what about Queen’s which is committed to keeping its place in the elite Russell Group as a leading research and teaching university? While Peter Gregson the Queen’s vice chancellor has stayed mum as far as I can see, Russell Group reaction to yesterday’s vote … Read more

24/7 News nudges BBC into hype over student riots

  Great shots of a nasty riot and the stills are a picture editor’s dream. Being at the focus of the students’ wrath inside the besieged Palace of Westminster tempted the normally judicious Nick Robinson (rightly warning here that the story won’t go away you know) into overegging it on the 10, when he said ( I only slightly paraphrase). A few hours ago this was about winning a vote on student fees, which the coalition duly did. But a … Read more

Irish Labour Party: “giving Northern Ireland £400million towards its roads is not a priority”

The Irish News today reports comments from the Irish Labour Party’s transport spokesman, Joe Costello, TD, which cast doubt on the proposed £850million upgrade of the A5 between Londonderry and Aughnacloy.  From the Irish News report …Mr Costello claimed that while it was “fine to make commitments in the middle of the Celtic Tiger years”, the southern state could no longer afford “grandiose schemes”. “At the present time, we are experiencing savage cutbacks in education, health and social welfare.  Giving Northern … Read more

Bad Week for Wales…..

We started with the PISA report on education standards throughout the world. The Pisa assessments of 15-year-olds show Wales falling further behind since the 2006 tests. Wales teenagers ranked below average, alongside the Czech Republic, in reading. Leighton Andrews called the results “unacceptable” and said everyone involved should be “alarmed”. Wales again ranked lowest of the UK countries and is now cast adrift from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Out of 67 countries taking part, Wales was ranked 38th for … Read more

Dodds slamdunks Cameron at PMQs…

I’m not generally a fan of the mauling match that goes on at Wednesday lunchtime in Westminster, but this is something else… Mark has the detail at Devenport Diaries.. Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

The broadening inkblot: Self-improvement for people who read newspapers (and blogs…)

This is a cross post from Miljenko Williams who blogs at 21st Century Fix. It was originally posted on the Political Innovation site here. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a regular lurker around the blogosphere and the longer, cleverer articles on media websites. You may even go further than that and comment occasionally, “Digg”, share or “like” postings on Facebook. And if you’re very clever with your RSS reader, you may have found a way of getting some of … Read more

Torture and our “special relationship” with Malaysia

Thousands of prisoners are tortured in Malaysia every year. Why should we care? Well, Northern Ireland has a “special relationship” with the country, don’t you know. Shouldn’t that relationship be leveraged “for the greater good”, as Sir Reg has it, to help end this barbaric practice

Social media fuels protests across political divide

Yesterday it was the turn of hundreds of school children demonstrating outside Parliament to save their playing fields and delivering a petition signed by 500,000″ organised by 17 year old Debbie Foote from Grantham , Lincs.” Last Saturday, TopShop at Oxford Circus, the shopping mecca for metro youth, was forced to close as hundreds protested against Philip Green’s tax avoidance. The organiser if you can call it that, was Ununcut – ( another potential disaster area for the Today programme’s … Read more

London Letter: Arts face tough year in 2011

It’s hard to make an economic case for the arts at a time when all departments face cuts and shortages. However, many believe that the survival and continued nurturing of the arts needs to be fought for, as thousands of people are employed in the sector in Northern Ireland and it is such a huge part of the social structure. In recent years, it has become more popular for people to attend the theatre (particularly affordable community theatre) and it … Read more

43% of Sinn Fein voters want to return to Sterling standard…

Mark Reckless is Tory MP for Rochester and Strood. He’s also the grandson of one Henry McDevitt, who briefly sat as a Fianna Fail TD for the now defunct Donegal East constituency. It seems Mr Reckless has taken it upon himself to commission a Red C poll on the question of whether the good folk of the Irish Republic would like to return to the calmer waters of the sterling zone. (H/T Gawain) He has hosted the detailed report on … Read more