“In praise of… Araucaria”

A Guardian editorial today pays a well-deserved 90th birthday tribute to their brilliant cryptic crossword setter, the Reverend John Graham, MBE – aka Araucaria.   And his fellow setters, Enigmatist, Paul and Shed do likewise with a genius-ly themed offering.  9 today, hooray, hooray, for 14 across 24 across, Mr 24 down Indeed. Update  Fifteensquared has the complete solution to the crossword.  And they point to this short Guardian article on Araucaria by Simon Hoggart. It’s not just the playful wit that delights … Read more

In defence of politicians – without overdoing it

Frances McDonnell in the Irish Times rightly points out the limitations of Northern Ireland ministers and their political interest in trying to shied voters from some of the effects of recession. She suggests that NI adopt southern multimillionaire businessman Dermot Desmond’s idea of recruiting outside experts to become ministers. The fallacy in this idea is that all ministers have to do it to find the Big Right Answer to some thorny problem and put it dynamically into action. But that’s … Read more

Micheál Martin: “I think there is a huge problem for Gerry Adams in a credibility sense”

The Sinn Féin president, and still Crown Steward and Bailiff of Northstead, Gerard Adams has taken exception to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raising the credibility question in relation to the SF leader’s murky past. [added final link] From the Belfast Telegraph report “There is a fundamental problem for Gerry when he continues to deny his membership of the IRA,” said Mr Martin. “Because every time he talks in this debate during the election about honesty, about being up front and transparent, it jars … Read more

“If Herivel had not been recruited in January 1940, who would have thought of the Herivel tip?”

There’s a lovely piece of biographical detail in The Guardian‘s obituary of Belfast-born science historian, and former World War II codebreaker at Bletchley Park, John W. Herivel who died on 18 January 2011, aged 92.  From The Guardian obituary Born in Belfast, Herivel had a civil servant father and was educated at Methodist College, from where, in 1937, he won a scholarship to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He had a strong sense of humour. Unable for security reasons to tell one potential … Read more

“This position could prove a political liability…”

Via Newshound.  In the Sunday Times Liam Clarke picked up on the reaction by the Sinn Féin president, and still Crown Steward and Bailiff of Northstead, Gerard Adams to the recent reports of a possible visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth II later this year.  Here’s the An Phoblacht report of that reaction I don’t think the queen should come. There are hugely unresolved matters in terms of the British still claiming jurisdiction even though in terms of the Good Friday … Read more

“Jedward will now represent Ireland…”

You were warned…  RTÉ reports the people’s verdict on their chosen shortlist of candidates for the Eurovision Song Contest 2011.  The Irish Times explains how it came to pass… Although the voting was originally supposed to have been an equal split between regional juries and a public vote, this was changed after a 30-second clip of the song was inadvertently leaked on the internet due to an administrative error by Universal Records, the twin’s record company. As a result the voting … Read more

“they have bought into the system and there is no going back for them”

In the Belfast Telegraph Liam Clarke provides a useful corrective to the more excitable commenters’ response to Secretary of State Owen Paterson’s recent remarks about a potential future Northern Ireland First Minister.  From the Belfast Telegraph article If you forgot the context, the soundbite could almost be taken as a call to vote Sinn Fein in order to copperfasten progress, but everyone knows that isn’t what Mr Paterson meant. He was making two other points. The first was that, if Sinn Fein … Read more

“It’s all a bit hasty and half-cock…”

The Guardian‘s Michael White attempts to get to grips with the various parties’ sudden positioning on the need for political reform ahead of the Irish general election. Why are all the parties thrashing around for reform? You must have guessed. Because after 20 years of purring happily as the Celtic Tiger economy, the Republic of Ireland has suffered a double smash since the crash of 2007, its cronyist politics – obsessed with permanent pork-barrel electioneering – widely blamed for not challenging the … Read more

New challenge to European Convention on Human Rights

The latest British challenge to the European Convention on Human Rights and its Court  backed by a former law lord  was sparked by the comparatively minor requirement to give prisoners voting rights. Behind it lurks a renewed Sun campaign fuelled by counter terrorism advisor Lord Carlile’s final report, warning that the UK has become a “safe haven” for terrorists. In opposition David Cameron called for the replacement of the UK Human Rights Act with a new British Bill of Rights but … Read more

“I recognise and support the desire for full transparency in politics…”

Last month Gonzo noted the UK “Government’s response to the public consultation on the confidentiality arrangements that apply to donations and loans to Northern Ireland political parties.” NIO minister Hugo Swire was quite explicit that the reason the identities of donors to political parties would remain secret was the threat of intimidation. But it’s possibly worth highlighting one of the Government’s proposals in particular [pdf file] 13. There remains strong opposition from some sources to the release of all details … Read more

Friday Thread: The United Kingdom explained

An ignorance of certain sensitivities has got me into enough trouble in the past when referring to Our wee province / Northern Ireland / Our Occupied Six / OUR wee country / the North of Ireland / Here … er there. This may help, but I do think that there’s a gap for someone to make a similar video simply explaining … there …. to visitors. Paul EvansLiving in London but working all over Britain and Ireland. A left-leaning Labour … Read more

Egypt, human rights and being caught on the wrong side of history

The people of Egypt continue to show extraordinary courage in taking to the streets en masse – and in the face of apparently orchestrated violence – to demand the human rights which have been denied them for so long. Countries like the US (and the UK) have been well aware of these human rights violations by the Mubarak administration for many years. Indeed, the US State Department compiles its own annual human rights report for Egypt. Pick any particular year you like. … Read more

Jeremy Paxman: “This is an ex-email”

BBC Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman has had fun signing off on the last ever Newsnight daily email.  Here is the text Good morning. And good afternoon. Or possibly, good evening. Welcome to positively the last Newsnight daily email. The time has come to put this exercise in fatuousness out of its misery. It gives me no pleasure to say that it should have happened years ago. Actually, I lie. There is more joy in heaven, etc, etc. The reason for killing … Read more

After Wikileaks and phone-hacking, who sets the new frontiers of information gathering?

Two important articles have discussed journalism’s role in pushing back the frontiers of information and disclosure in two very different, highly sensitive areas: hacking into the phones of the famous and the mass leaking of government files. Should journalism incite more disclosure or offer greater protection?  The clear message of both pieces  is that journalism in the digital age remains as important as ever. But press self regulation and practice must  raise its game at the vulnerable end of government and public pressure. When … Read more

“as someone who only moved here a week or two ago…”

The Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, Gerard Adams, has defended his lack of knowledge of “the minutiae” of Ireland’s economic policies.  From the Irish News …last night Mr Adams claimed he should not be expected to know the finer details because of his recent move from West Belfast to contest the Dail election for Louth. “I wouldn’t be expected – as someone who only moved here a week or two ago – to know the minutiae,” … Read more

Denis Donaldson inquest adjourned again – redux – redux

Previously adjourned, for the fifth time, in August last year, the Irish News reports that the inquest into the 2006 death of former senior Sinn Féin figure Denis Donaldson has been adjourned again – a further pre-inquest hearing will be held on May 5.  From the Irish News report It is understood a key witness in the investigation has been taken into protective custody after allegedly revealing where the gun used to kill Mr Donaldson was buried. The coroner told [Garda Superintendent Michael … Read more

Immigration detention conditions slammed. Larne plans move ahead.

With the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) moving ahead with plans to open a short-term “immigration removal centre” in Larne, concerns were heightened today with the publication of a damning report by HM Inspector of Prisons into Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre and Short Term Holding Facility near Heathrow. Colnbrook is operated by private company Serco on behalf of UKBA and is just the latest such centre to be the focus of significant criticism in a HM Inspector of Prisons report. A whole series of reports … Read more

DRD Minister intends to grant £8.6million to City of Derry Airport

Some £60-odd million has been spent by various administrations on the City of Derry Airport in recent years – including £19million in 2008 on “safety work”.  And still no sign of a buyer… But, as the Irish Government prepares to cut the subsidy it provides for the Londonderry-Dublin flight, the Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, has announced his intention to grant £8.6million to the airport for further “essential safety works”.  Even though he has yet to secure … Read more

One last go at the Gerry thing

The Gerry Adams “resignation” is probably one of the most pointless but nerdishly interesting things I’ve ever seen. Pete has already brought us the BBC’s report of the exchange between Sir George Young and Hiliary Benn earlier today, but it is worth exploring a little. Sir George said: During the subsequent exchanges, Members raised the hypothetical possibility of a future Chancellor appointing a Member without a firm application for a relevant post from that Member. I find it inconceivable that … Read more