#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

Monica McWilliams – What difference does conflict or peace make for women? #feile15

Power works through dominion, but it also works through dependence … [yet] power can be changed. Wearing DDP Barra McGrory’s glasses until her own were located, Prof Monica McWilliams delivered a lecture this evening in St Mary’s University College on Conflict or Peace: What difference does it make for women? as part of Féile an Phobail. The academic and former Human Rights Commissioner highlighted instances of violence and discrimination against women in conflicts around the world, including Northern Ireland. The … Read more

Conversations about the future require candour, not platitudes

Because of a clash of commitments I’m having to miss out on the Westminster launch on Tuesday of  Uncomfortable Conversations: An Initiative for Dialogue Towards Reconciliation  edited by the Sinn Fein chair Declan Kearney.  It will follow a similar launch in the Linenhall Library in Belfast  which Sinn Fein covered on YouTube in April. It is also the second bite of a cherry first produced as long ago as  October 2012.The words  “trust”, “genuine “ and “dialogue”  figured prominently  but specific … Read more

Roy Mason, the last to believe in outright IRA defeat

Roy Mason who has died aged 91 was  Northern Ireland Secretary of State  from 1976 to the end of the Labour government in 1979. He was  “short in stature and long in self confidence “ as David McKittrick  rightly described him. He even designed his own peculiarly vented and lapelled tight fitting light khaki suits. When I last met him a few years ago at the launch of a Northern Ireland stamp, he was eloquent about his collection. He retained heavy police security at … Read more

DLA: The Numbers

I was on BBC Talkback earlier to comment on the Belfast Telegraph lead-story today about DLA claimant levels. I thought Slugger readers may like to see the stats behind the headlines. The stats detailed in this written answer show the change in the average number of people in receipt of Disability Living Allowance between 2010 and 2014, broken down by Northern Ireland constituency. Overall, about one in 9 of Northern Ireland’s population is in receipt of DLA – compared with around … Read more

Newry Play Park Farce: “In my view one word sums it up, a waste. A waste of life.”

If you missed it, this is well worth listening to the whole of this Audio Boom from Nolan this morning. listen to ‘Another unionist bid to change name fails – what next in Newry playpark row? #BBCNolan’ on audioBoom There’s a number of points worth picking up, not least Conor Murphy’s defence of Ray McCreesh’s Attempted Murder charge as being part of a war. But this segment from a caller called Alex in Lisburn is also illuminating. I used to … Read more

Ulrich Beck and developing the art of co-existence and constitutional tolerance…

Towards the end of the last millennium, an intellectual fad infected the Anglo-American academy, whose ivory towers can be vulnerable to fast-spreading exotica. Against the backdrop of the fall of the Wall in Germany and the cul-de-sac into which French ‘structuralist’ philosophies had fallen, ‘post-modernism’ announced the end of the ‘grand narratives’ of modernity, deriving from the enlightenment tradition and associated with its emancipating doctrines of liberalism and socialism. Everything was now just perspective, its breathless advocates declared, leading to … Read more

Outsourcing solutions may be the secret of dealing with more than the past

Well, perhaps amid the encircling gloom the political parties have seen some light at last. The details of the agreement on welfare reform are awaited but it looks as if any new money will come from Westminster mainly to deal with the past which is surely fair. Adds: United Executive request for a total of £2.1 billion over 10 years. Quite a gap with David Cameron’s £1 billion extra borrowing.. but perhaps  smoke and mirrors will narrow it once the welfare deal surfaces. Nothing from that … Read more

Is This What A United Ireland Would Be?

[Originally posted on my own site, but I thought given the…interest shown yesterday in my status as pro union, that the sluggerverse might get a kick out of this…]   I regularly wonder what “a united ireland” would be. Many people call for it, but would the reality be what they expected? Very few people indeed are alive today that remember a united ireland… and the world of 2014 is far removed from the world of 1916…So what would happen? … Read more

Friday Thread: The Struggle for Esteem?

Can we make ourselves feel good without making others feel bad? Political philosopher, Cillian McBride, explores this question with people from Tiger’s Bay, a Loyalist community in North Belfast. He talks to them about bonfires, flags and parading, and the challenges posed by cultural practices that neighbouring communities can experience as hostile gestures. He suggests we think about these issues in terms of a struggle for social recognition – a feature that is common among all individuals and societies. Dead_Air_Radiomedia … Read more