Funding bonfires – burning public money or a necessary investment in good relations?

Good Morning Ulster picked up on the minutes of a report from Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Partnership to the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on Friday 17 October. Belfast – in common with many councils – provides grants to bonfire organisers to fund community programmes (often street entertainment, bouncy councils, fairground rides) organised on the side of loyalist and republican bonfires. However strings are attached: the bonfires mustn’t be built with hazardous material and flags and emblems mustn’t … Read more

All aboard the gravy train

We have just gone through an election for our new councils. Little did we know that while we were being talked to about the need for balanced budgets and battling austerity that some of our very own public representatives have been jetting off around the world and it appears for a few money has been no object. Sure, as our friends over at Pantene would say, you’re worth it! Tonight we name and shame some of the councillors and their … Read more

Did the ‘UDA Night’ at Sandy Row spark the “IRA Night” in Whiterock?

After no some little searching, here’s the only reference I can find to the UDA event at Sandy Row Community Centre in An Phoblacht. Interestingly it carries a quote from a Sinn Fein councillor: Laganbank Sinn Féin Councillor Deirdre Hargey has called for a full investigation into the incident. She also noted that as a council building it is open to all sections of the community and being associated with such incidents will only keep people away. Mark Moloney notes… A … Read more

Belfast City Council: “what happened on Saturday evening is a clear breach of our terms and conditions of hire.”

The News Letter has an updated comment from the spokeswoman for Belfast City Council about the (Provisional) IRA commemoration at Whiterock Leisure Centre on Saturday night.  From the News Letter report Belfast City Council says a republican event in one of its leisure centres was clearly in breach of terms and conditions, after critics objected to use of a Sinn Fein banner, replica weapons and paramilitary flags. The event, in Whiterock Leisure Centre on Saturday, was strongly condemned yesterday by … Read more

Belfast Politics as petulant childsplay (while Ballymurphy langours in deprivation) Redux…

Somethings only start to look truly absurd when you look at them in conjunction with some other things… Here’s one thing, a DUP councillor being barracked for temporarily donning a Linfield scarf whilst the council body was discussing a motion calling on the council to honour out-going Linfield manager David Jeffrey. And here’s another thing: Fast forward to Friday Saturday – after hours for the Leisure Centre in question. Pictures start appearing on user @patrickmul7 ‘s twitter profile. “Whiterock Leisure … Read more

“Sit down and stop acting like a petulant child.”

According to the BBC’s Mark Simpson, former Provisional IRA OC in the Maze Prison, now Sinn Féin leader in Belfast City Council, Cllr Jim McVeigh, objected tonight when DUP Cllr Ruth Patterson put on a Linfield football scarf while speaking on a motion calling on the council to honour out-going Linfield manager David Jeffrey.  From the BBC report The monthly meeting of the council on Monday was held up for more than 10 minutes as a result of complaints from Mr McVeigh. … Read more

Will the draft Local Government Bill expand NI council accountability and transparency?

Following on from last week’s post about council accountability and transparency, let’s take a look at the draft Local Government Bill which is current at the committee stage in the NI Assembly. (I’ll also reference NILGA’s response to the draft bill, though it should be noted that the membership of the NI Local Government Association will skew the organisation’s reaction to the draft legislation through the lens of councillors and council executives rather than the public.) As well as covering … Read more

Where have all the moderates gone?

Well he’s back; Jamie Bryson made his first appearance on Nolan this morning since his restrictions on public speaking were lifted. I listened to Jamie talk about the need for more protests (he did say they should be peaceful in fairness) and how he believed the last round of protests had actually achieved a lot. Last time I checked their number one goal of punishing the city council into submission hadn’t worked as the flag is still not up and … Read more

McCann meets….Belfast Mayor, Mairtin O’Muilleoir

 On Tuesday I sat down with the Mayor of Belfast, Mairtin O’Muilleoir. We discussed a variety of issues from why he joined Sinn Fein to his view of the recent flag disturbances. Here are some key quotes; On his business background; While I have enjoyed creating businesses and being involved in business….I think it has affected some of my outlook, I don’t think it has affected my outlook on matters economic. But I think it’s affected my outlook on matters … Read more

Vision for Belfast unveiled by Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir who promises to “remain relentlessly positive” about the city this year

When Máirtín Ó Muilleoir returned to Belfast City Council after an absence of fourteen years he must have hoped that it would be a changed place. His book – Belfast’s Dome of Delight – documents his journey as the “novice ambassador from the independent republic of Anderstown” to the council chamber as the nationalist (and in particular Sinn Fein) presence on the council grew. Sinn Fein’s offices in the council were bombed by the UVF in May 1994. The election … Read more

Beacons and the hornet’s nest of bonfires

Bonfire in King George V Playing Fields in East Belfast

Driving into work every morning I pass a number of bonfire sites. The stacks of pallets strewn across the sites on the Donegall Road have been gradually sculpted into tall towers. It’s good to see an absence of tyres at Monarch Street. (Their bonfire suffered from being lit prematurely in 2011 and was given a Council-provided beacon and a hastily reconstructed tyre-ridden replacement bonfire.) Bonfires have rarely been out of the news headlines in recent weeks: Agreement was reached to … Read more

Military covenant: “I may need your help publicly on this…”

For the second year in a row, an Irish Government Minister has taken part in the Battle of the Somme commemoration at Belfast City Hall – this time it was the turn of Labour TD, Joe Costello.  Also present were the Northern Ireland First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, and representatives from the Ulster Unionists, the Alliance Party and the SDLP.  The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó’Muilleoir, has continued his party’s boycott of the official ceremony. [Are you serious?! – Ed]  As the … Read more

Local democracy in NI: Have our problems got bigger, or our politics smaller?

Okay, a short break from focusing on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. Malachi O’Doherty has been looking at the grand palais of local democracy that is the Belfast City Council chamber. And what goes on there: It looks like the sort of place world affairs are hammered out in. Actually it is the drain into which our sectarian toxins flow. And as for power? Well, there’s the bins and the parks and cemeteries and not much more. Belfast City Council … Read more

“Sinn Féin councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has called on Belfast Chamber of Commerce President Joe Jordan to ‘stop politicking’…”

It’s not entirely clear to me why Belfast Chamber of Commerce President Joe Jordan has been singled out for criticism by Sinn Féin Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, but he has been.  Here’s the 11 January press release from the Sinn Féin website Sinn Féin councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has called on Belfast Chamber of Commerce President Joe Jordan to “stop politicking” and unite with political and business leaders to build the city of Belfast. Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: “Sadly, while others have been … Read more

Thoughts on the Flag protests

The flag protests have now been going on for a month. During that time we have heard assorted apportioning of blame, descriptions of the events as marking a disintegration in loyalism (and by extension then unionism), calls on various people to display “leadership” and much merriment and contempt directed at the flag protest leadership: often vitriolic here on slugger. The protests are at core a political issue. The riots are clearly criminality and some of those attacking the police may … Read more

Caption Competition

Things seem to have fallen a little silent on the Nesbitt front but let’s not let sleeping dogs lie! Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here:

“Not always possible to align the democratic and the retail calendars…”

First sign of any sort of kick back on the Alliance, the SDLP and Sinn Fein came from President of the Chamber last night, Joe Jordan who criticised the timing of the vote (rather than the vote itself), and the widespread unrest in and now way beyond the city.. It fell to Mairtin O’Muilleoir, a businessman himself and often an overt champion of local business interests on Twitter responded to similar queries on Sunday when he tweeted: @danzer_b agreed but … Read more

Take Alliance seriously.They represent what most people want, the politics of compromise

Even to their own supporters the main parties are hardly coming out of the flag disorder looking impressive. When the chips are down the smiling cross community stuff isn’t quite cutting the mustard where it matters most. Nice people pocket the gains – they might even group around a new Northern Ireland, Peter still has a point even if he puts it provocatively.  But he and Martin still have to settle with their respective enemies within. The easier bit of power … Read more

Frank McCoubrey comes in from the cold…

And in other council news, Frank McCoubrey – formerly of the UDA aligned UDP – comes into the DUP on Belfast City Council. The UDP disbanded some years ago of course, when someone forgot to re-register the party with the Electoral Commission. His defection, as Squinter calls it is from the UUP whip, which he rather surreptitiously took up at some point before 2009. It’s an interesting ‘acquisition’ for the DUP, which has struggled in the past to garner enough … Read more

Irish Government Minister Attends Belfast Somme Commemoration

Having been invited to attend, almost unanimously, by Belfast City Council, an Irish Government Minister has taken part in the Battle of the Somme commemorations at Belfast City Hall for the first time.  From the BBC report Soldiers from across Ireland fought side by side in the World War I. As with previous years, Sinn Fein councillors did not attend the main commemoration. [Alan Kelly TD, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport], who laid … Read more