No side deal for soldiers, Theresa. If you can legislate for the language, you can legislate for the legacy

It  would  be hard to find an issue that  illustrates how little Northern Ireland matters to some Conservative MPs as the campaign to halt police investigations into cases of alleged army misconduct during the Troubles. It’s not so much calculated indifference as blimpish blindness. This was the question to Theresa May at PMQs today: 22 February 2017   Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con) Q9. If she will take steps to introduce legislative proposals to provide legal protection to … Read more

“…it should never be forgotten that a genuinely united Ireland must be based on a free union of those living in Ireland”

The strength of positive feeling towards the economist TK Whitaker in the Irish press was extraordinary. I want to come back to that later in the week, since there may still be important lessons to draw on from the manner in which he approached matters. But, in the context of this election to nowhere we’re enduring right now, this snippet from Eoghan Harris on Whitaker’s background role with the Irish government at the outbreak of the Troubles is worth putting into … Read more

Using art to fill in gaps of our reconciliation @DFATIrl

Using art to fill in gaps of our reconciliation: DFAT Reconciliation Networking Forum
by Allan LEONARD for Northern Ireland Foundation
14 December 2016

At the eleventh annual convening of a reconciliation network organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Ireland), an afternoon panel discussion explored the role of the arts in Northern Ireland’s reconciliation process.

Read moreUsing art to fill in gaps of our reconciliation @DFATIrl

Peace Journalist • Editor • Writer • Photographer • Peacebuilding a shared Northern Irish society • allan@mrulster.com • www.mrulster.com

Jim Prior may have been doomed to fail but he had plenty of help from the locals

It’s a  natural reflex to blame the Brits and indeed, there’s a good case to be made for it time and again.  But  the career locally of  Jim Prior, the senior Conservative  who was secretary of  state from  October 1981 to September  1984, a month before the Brighton Bomb, is stark evidence that the time for conciliation had not yet come and conventional  politics was impotent. The best Jim Prior obit  is written by the veteran Julia Landon  in the … Read more

Shame on the politicians for allowing the PSNI to become the victims of a tabloid firestorm over army prosecutions

A tabloid storm  blown up  by the Sun and the Mail with the Daily Telegraph in tow  has been set off to save  hundreds, perhaps thousands of “our boys” – the soldiers who served in the Troubles – from the “ witch hunt” of being singled out as a class for prosecution as a result of Army action in the Troubles. The surge probably owes more to  the  establishment campaign against prosecutions over Iraq – one case now being  the … Read more

Without fear or favour: 30 years of Troubled Images

Without fear or favour: 30 years of Troubled Images
by Allan LEONARD for Northern Ireland Foundation
28 November 2016

The latest incarnation of the Troubled Images project — the launch of a free downloadable iBook  — was cause for a reunion of sorts at the Linen Hall Library for the original team that compiled and published its original CD-ROM 15 years ago.

Read moreWithout fear or favour: 30 years of Troubled Images

Peace Journalist • Editor • Writer • Photographer • Peacebuilding a shared Northern Irish society • allan@mrulster.com • www.mrulster.com

Another few words of sense about dealing with the past that the politicians refuse to face.

Chris Ryder, veteran reporter and specialist on police matters, is given space in the Irish Times to repeat the case for halting all pre- Troubles  cases and leaving them to historians. Although he is known as a critical friend of the police,  he makes a fair and balanced  case which should be considered entirely  on its merits. This was an approach I ran with to support Arkiv, a group of historians who wanted to take it on, initially encouraged by the … Read more

Time cannot silence the Voices of the Somme

At the start of July I posted on Slugger O’Toole to introduce Somme Voices, a month-long series of daily tweets in remembrance of that dreadful World War One battle. I’m returning to Slugger to bring the Somme Voices project to a close with a final poem. The reason is that I’d like to quote this one in its entirety and Twitter is a less-than-perfect medium for something of considerable length. It does, however, give me the chance to make a … Read more

The time is overdue for the two governments to tell what they know about the Dublin-Monaghan and the Birmingham bombings

Consider the latest developments about two atrocities, the Dublin and Monaghan UVF bombs in May 1974 and the Birmingham IRA pub bombs of November the same year. What they have in common is knowledge of the identities of what we must call the alleged perpetrators. The deep frustration caused to individuals and states has not gone away. Kieran Conway now a Dublin solicitor, then the IRA’s “director of intelligence.” has again confirmed what is so well known, that the identities … Read more

#SluggerReport: What these post #AE16 shootings tell us about wicked problems in West Belfast

I would definitely listen back to the first half hour of the Nolan Show this morning. Some of the reaction from some callers was pretty chilling in their comments on four shootings since voting at Assembly elections finished. One suggested that within six or seven days no one but the families would care. In the meantime here’s some thoughts on the wicked problems that communities like those in West Belfast face and which enforcer violence like this perpetuates… Mick FealtyMick … Read more

Do we need the “old ” IRA to contain the “new”?

Gang activity labelled “dissident republican” is spreading and is proving very difficult to check.  What is the connection between the killings in Dublin and the fatal shooting taxi driver of  Michael McGibbon? Perhaps the most chilling aspect of McGibbon “ punishment shooting “  was that, rather than go the the police – or even Gerry Kelly –   he went to take his punishment, just as in the worst of the bad old days. The 33-year-old had gone to meet … Read more

1916 is still worth a fret or two

I’ve just finished reading my latest foray into an absorbing subject, Ruth Dudley Edwards’s magnificent The Seven, her biographical account of the main leaders of the Easter Rising, guardedly but critically reviewed by the  historian and Irish Times columnist Diarmaid Ferriter here. While Ruth may be dismissed by some as the arch revisionist, no reader can deny her command of  biographical  detail ( much of it her own research, some of it owing to many others who have written about … Read more

Injured Prison Officer Dies After Heart Attack

Adrian Ismay, who had previously been released from hospital after sustaining serious injuries from a dissident Republican bomb attack, suffered a fatal heart attack earlier today. The First Minister lead condemnation, tweeting from the USA on an investment mission, “I’m devastated. Can’t believe the news. I was texting Adrian before we left for the US. He was doing well. My thoughts are with his family.” The PSNI have yet to confirm they are treating the death as murder. Coincidentally today in … Read more

The biggest losers in failing to come clean on the past is the reputation and authority of the state and its servants.

You don’t have to be a transitional justice zealot or a Provie fellow traveller to recognise that the heat is on the British government, the police and security authorities over dealing with the past. You can be a judge like Lord Justice Weir blasting the police and indirectly the government for  the inordinate delays in producing inquest evidence, now that high court judges have taken over the coroner’s service. You only need to be a supporter the DUP or TUV, … Read more

Paisley: Relic of the Past or Harbinger of the Future?

I recently chanced upon this 1987 review by Charles Townshend in the LRB of Steve Bruce’s God Save Ulster: The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism. It now reads as a fascinating period piece. Just the previous month, Paisley had performed the first of his major protests at the European Parliament, heckling Margaret Thatcher. She was congratulating the EEC on its expansion to Spain and Portugal when he stood up, brandishing an ‘Ulster Says No’ poster, and shouted, “I would like … Read more

Nearly two decades of sectarian politics have produced increasing indifference to politics, which is progress of a kind. Age, education and income are now the great dividing lines.

The Guardian’s Henry McDonald  reports an advance of the findings of a  complex opinion survey carried out by Social Market Research Belfast for four universities and coordinated by a team including Professor Peter Shirlow, now at Liverpool.  In common with the NI Life and Times opinion  surveys the poll confirms a much more complex state of public opinion than a straight standoff between unionist and nationalist or a  hardening of attitudes between them.  A huge amount of political agnosticism is … Read more

Threatening the existence of the Assembly is a victory for terrorism

Oh God, not another fundamental breakpoint founded on the highest principles, whether they’re about welfare or the IRA! Come on, get real. This kerfuffle over “IRA structures” will pass. For all their simulated outrage over the IRA or welfare, no politician – none of the leaders anyway – want to close Stormont down.  Electoral politics are also in play on both sides of the border. We should discount it. No clear advantage can be gained by any party threatening to … Read more

After the McGuigan murder: The Provisionals *really* haven’t gone away, you know….

As I noted some time ago, the biggest problem Sinn Fein pose to society  is their settled policy of partial disclosure. Do you believe Detective Superintendent Geddes’ assessment or Sinn Fein’s local representatives? On one level that’s matter of political choice. But as we have seen over the Cahill allegations, the party only ever says what’s good for it, even if it turns out to be a lie. [When it gets serious, of course you have to lie! – Ed] … Read more