What are we to make of the expert opinion that British intelligence reports of the past are being withheld for reasons that are ” increasingly random?”

The Guardian’s expert on the history of intelligence Richard Norton Taylor writes the following in an article on intelligence withheld  or released. Documents held back this year include files relating to the Scott inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq affair, a file on allegations of sexual abuse at the Kincora boys’ home in Belfast which the former army information officer Colin Wallace said were covered up by MI5, and a file on the late Brian Nelson, a British army informer in Northern Ireland eventually jailed for … Read more

“This isn’t an issue about the mayor, the mayor was using his democratic right to use that casting vote…”

So says the Derry and Strabane District Sinn Féin Councillor Eric McGinley, a party colleague of the mayor in question, Sinn Féin Councillor, Maolíosa McHugh.  The Sinn Féin mayor had previously declined to meet Prince Charles when he visited County Londonderry last year to meet victims of flooding.  In his place, representing the office of the mayor, SDLP councillor John Boyle, the deputy mayor of Derry and Strabane, accompanied Prince Charles during the visit. The reason for the Sinn Féin statement defending … Read more

Karen Bradley appointed new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

As the BBC report, the UK Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, MP, has been appointed as the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by Prime Minister Theresa May replacing James Brokenshire – who resigned today due to ill health. Karen Bradley MP becomes Secretary of State for Northern Ireland #CabinetReshuffle pic.twitter.com/5TbHJJRI1h — UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) January 8, 2018 Adds  From the BBC report Mrs Bradley, 47, has been the MP for Staffordshire Moorlands since May 2010, and became a Home … Read more

James Brokenshire resigns as Northern Ireland Secretary…

News that James Brokenshire is resigning on grounds of ill health… BBC reports “It’s understood he requires surgery soon for a lung condition”. 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 death of Peter Sutherland robs us of a key bridge builder between the UK the EU and Ireland

Peter Sutherland who has died aged 71, was an Irishman  bigger internationally  than any Briton of his time.

Read moreThe death of Peter Sutherland robs us of a key bridge builder between the UK the EU and Ireland

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

Nothing since the referendum has shifted the identities that underpinned the result…

Interesting piece from Professor Wynn Jones of Cardiff University on the role of competing identities unwriting the Brexit result in June 2017, which offers clues as to why attitudes are unlikely to change not least because cultural certainties will likely withstand economic hardship… Nothing since the referendum has shifted the identities that underpinned the result – quite the opposite. Far from seeking to manufacture what political scientists called “loser’s consent” following the close overall result, Theresa May’s administration has simply … Read more

New Books for the New Year from Ó Tuama; Deeds and McManus

With a New Year comes new beginnings – or so the tyranny of the New Year’s Resolutions industry would have us believe. Resolutions can be a source of frustration rather than liberation, but there are few among us who do not give at least some pause for thought on how we might live better in the year ahead. Two new books by some of our most gifted local Christian writers provide tools for living better in the New Year: Daily … Read more

1988: Home Office leaves NI emergency team in dark as satellite falls to earth #20YearRule

While there was a flurry of activity to plan for the unlikely event of a Russian satellite crash-landed on Northern Ireland soil in 1988, the alerting procedures failed and the NI emergency planning heard the ‘all clear’ on the midnight radio news when London colleagues failed to notify them that the satellite had missed the UK and they could stand their staff down.

“Any political party that vetoes the re-establishment of the Northern Assembly until further human rights are recognised (or not) is putting the cart before the horse.”

As Newton Emerson pointed out in Saturday’s Irish News, Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, and erstwhile “father of an all singing, all dancing Northern Ireland Human Rights Bill“, Professor Brice Dickson, has had something to say about ‘red lines’ and a ‘rights-based’ society.  From the Irish News article Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, Prof Brice Dickson, has penned a robust article in the Irish Times explaining that the Stormont talks issues Sinn Féin is describing as “rights” are … Read more

“The truth remains that Adams will only reveal his past if it suits his own agenda.”

We might never know the truth about the suggestion that Gerry Adams was responsible, directly or indirectly, for setting up the Provisional IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade for ambush as they tried to blow up a police station in Loughgall in May 1987.  Sinn Féin have dismissed the claims as “utter nonsense”, and some of the usual suspects have busied themselves playing the man – and/or the media. Meanwhile, Ed Moloney provides some useful background, and reproduces the chapter in his book ‘A Secret … Read more

Government recalcitrance over refugee resettlement in early 1990s #20YearRule

Between 1989 and 1992, local civil servants responded to two requests for Northern Ireland to offer accommodation for refugees from two regions of the world: Vietnam and the former Yugoslavia. In the second instance, the internal response lacked enthusiasm with officials unwilling to state publicly that they were willing to accept in families to NI as part of the UK-wide programme.

1991: Negotiating a Strand 2 talks venue + complaints that Paisley was locked out of his toilet #20YearRule

One single buff-coloured file, three or four inches thick, contains the stapled minutes of NIO meetings with political parties in May 1991 as they negotiated about the strand one, two and three talks. While perhaps the single most frustrating file I’ve flicked through in PRONI over the last couple of years, the level of detail in the civil service minutes of meetings is incredible, and the retention of humorous asides provides a lot of colour about the characters involved and their relationships.

1990: Tory & Unionist pressure group proposed two month terrorist amnesty for offences short of murder #20YearRule

The pressure group – The Monday Club – for which membership of either the Conservative Party or the UUP was a prerequisite to be a member recommended in 1990 to the Secretary of State Peter Brooke that there should be a two month amnesty for terrorist activities (short of murder) and that the Union should be made permanent as the provision to leave only encouraged terrorists.

“Perhaps we can begin with social parity.”

Writing in the Guardian, Richard Angell, LGBT officer of the Labour Irish Society and director of Progress, has an interesting suggestion Owen Smith is right to say that if the parties of Northern Ireland cannot get their act together and restore power-sharing government then direct rule, however undesirable, must be used to make progress on LGBT and reproductive rights. But he is wrong to say that referendums are necessary to give a mandate for change. For one, thing they are not required. Unlike in the … Read more

“The prospect written between the lines of this week’s letter is of Sinn Féin sidelining itself….”

I Newton Emerson points out the irony of that letter Chris blogged the other day, signed by 200 members of nationalist civil society. “We appeal urgently to you Taoiseach,” it concludes, “and to the Irish Government, to reassure us of your commitment to stand for equality and a human-rights based society and your determination to secure and protect the rights of all citizens in the North of Ireland. ” Varadkar’s office responded promptly by saying the way to address these issues … Read more

Westminster asserts its power over the executive and Whitehall

To all those who think Westminster is irrelevant, last night’s development could prove significant, if not actually decisive… Boom!! Government defeated… Brexit is in the hands of our Parliament, not Executive whim. pic.twitter.com/z4JqQJABig — Mike Galsworthy #FBPE #NHSlove (@mikegalsworthy) December 13, 2017 It certainly won’t bring the government down, but it WILL give the DUP and other Brexiteers some serious headaches in landing a deal that must meet parliamentary approval, and it’s a reminder that Parliament still actually matters. NI’s … Read more

Homeopathy and the NHS…

So the NHS may finally be clearing its shelves of homeopathic practice and remedies.  To address the current funding crisis, the NHS has announced that a number of remedies which are either ineffective, frankly dangerous or both will no longer be available.  Homeopathy is one of them and rightly so.   No doubt some, perhaps Prince Charles a strong advocate for homeopathy, will protest that this move will adversely affect the health of the nation but they will be in the … Read more

Time to look past this ‘dodgy’ Brexit to the material reality of how politics actually works

One of the remarkable things about Friday’s conclusion to the Phase 1 talks is just how happy everyone seems to have been. Either some or all parties are going to be disappointed as we go forward, or we are on for the blandest version of what Guido used to call a non-Brexit. What actually  happened is that the Real British position was finally brought to the surface, after months of wild propagandising in favour of a ‘hard Brexit’, which in retrospect looks … Read more

‘Specific solutions’ & ‘distinct arrangements’: more of the same for post-Brexit NI?

In the space of a few carefully-worded paragraphs, the Joint Report issued by the UK and EU on Friday has managed to utterly transform the prospects for Northern Ireland after Brexit.   The UK-EU Joint Report The UK has offered surety for maintaining an open Irish border, promising to maintain wide-ranging alignment with EU rules covering every aspect of the 1998 Agreement, north/south and east/west. Moreover, it has asserted that Northern Ireland will ultimately have the right to decide for … Read more