The Lords held the wrong debate

There was quite a lot of noble handwringing in that Lords debate that needs unpicking. Dealing with the past was confused with dealing with the present impasse. There is of course a link but they are really two clean different things.  It was odd to hear Paul Bew, a historian who has dedicated much of his life’s work to creating credible accounts of the past out of opposing positions, to dismiss so dogmatically the prospects of dealing with our most … Read more

Friday thread: On doing things that make us feel good but which don’t work…

Benjamin Brattan gave this anti TED TEDx talk in San Diego last year. He’s talking directly to the kind of techno-utopianism that TED often falls into. But this section towards the end might have some useful lessons for Northern Ireland. Consider, following Jim’s analysis this morning, that the Haass talks fall under the category of “things that make us feel good but which don’t work“: If we really want transformation we have to slog through the hard stuff: the history; … Read more

After Haass: Risk of growing local disputes into toxic regional problems

I’ve got my iPhone beside me as I write. I’m writing on my laptop. But if I break off and have a spare moment later I can pick up this article on the iPhone and continue working. I use the little thing for calls, texting, taking photos, taking video, editing video, video conferencing, scanning articles, as an internet connection for my laptop, GPS navigation, and – of course – surfing the internet. I can use my fingerprint to unlock it, … Read more

Haass’s challenge to Stormont’s consociational security system doomed to fail…

Confused? You will be. Yesterday’s debate about an agreement that was never reached ended in a narrow vote against Haass. Two odd things about that vote. One, the leaders of the two major parties were still to have their post Haass talks. Two, a vote against would not have amounted in any concrete statutory terms to a hill of beans. Why? Because pretty much all decisions have to be agreed by the tribal chiefs (or tribunes as they have been … Read more

After Haass, the apolitical ministerial toboggan ride continues…

It’s worth remembering what the Haass talks were, and what they weren’t.  This is not as easy as it may seem since the media have been portraying it has some sort of GFA3 event. In fact Dr Haass and Professor O’Sullivan is all there was: a small if perfectly formed gang of two three (plus Charles Landlow) with no support, no back up and no informed [local] advisors to tell them where the hidden trap doors where. We should probably … Read more

“So in a sense, these resignations were expected.”

In the absence of agreement between the political parties on what happens next, the continuing uncertainty about what new arrangements will be put in place to deal with the past is having, what should have been, an anticipated effect.  As the BBC report, “HET: Four officers leave specialist police team“. BBC Northern Ireland Home Affairs Correspondent Vincent Kearney said a question mark hangs over the future of the HET following the inspection report. He said the four officers who left had been … Read more

Why the neo Redmondists of Sinn Fein are happier to make Haass concessions than the DUP…

Eamonn McCann brings a much needed sense of perspective on the break down (and enduring significance) of the Haass talks: the North isn’t Iraq. It is possible the Stormont institutions will eventually fall apart – but not on account of events at the Stormont Hotel, nor with comparably disastrous consequences. Evidence for this is to be found in the cynicism on the street with regard to the talks and the calm which has greeted their failure. Few believed the talks … Read more

Haass Talks: three shrugs

As David McCann has noted below the Haass document has been published. I had begun to think of a blog on this subject before I read the draft but had to revise the idea completely, due essentially to the lack of concrete proposals in the final draft. Looking at the document and the number of times it says they were unable to get agreement on things such as the definition of a victim, almost any concrete finding on flags etc. … Read more

#Haass paper published

Folks here are the proposals from the Haass talks that has been put up on the OFM/DFM website Paper opens with ‘We in Northern Ireland have come along way. From the depths of violence we have built an impressive, albiet incomplete peace.’ It goes on to say ‘Despite these positive steps , we have further distance to travel. Many continue to await the end of sectarianism and the peace dividend that all citizens’ should be due.’ On who they met … Read more

Haass had basic flaws. It’s time for the two governments to step up to the plate

It was in its way encouraging that the Assembly parties themselves launched the Haass process but they seem to have bitten off more than they could chew. They appear to have gone into the high pressure phase without clear ideas of how to reach goals other than muddling through. So far we haven’t heard of any back channels or talks on the margin where so often  deals get done, or arm twisting from  big brothers or sisters.  Pressured negotiations worked before, on Good Friday and at St Andrews, … Read more

He’s back! Haass is returning to NI

Who said Haassmas comes but once a year? Our very own international problem solver Dr Richard Haass will be returning to get a deal that eluded him earlier in the week. Question for our posters-if you were Richard Haass how would you approach these talks and what concessions would you seek to get from the parties? If I were him, I would get the British and Irish governments more involved, Haass enters the talks with no carrots and no sticks. … Read more

Haass Round Table talks pushed back until later this evening…

So the latest time for the convening of roundtable talks has been being put back all day. Right now, Mark Devenport says 8.30. And Tommie Gorman of RTE has suggested that Haass may be back immediately after Christmas (he’s going back to the States tomorrow) to finalise any deal before the end of the month. In the meantime, Jeffrey Donaldson gave a lot of detail on Stephen Nolan this morning on what already seems to be agreed on investigating the … Read more

Haass has scrapped the first draft of his proposals, and is now ‘furiously drafting’ a new one.

So, the Haass talks are to take a break? Well, no. But the DUP have said no to Dr Haass’s first draft: …he and his team will spend the time furiously drafting a new discussion document for the five Executive parties to study. The party told him that it could not recommend any single aspect of the draft to its supporters and warned that progress was impossible without its co-operation as the largest party. “We spelt out our bottom line,” … Read more

Theresa Villiers: “in the meantime, the Parades Commission remains the legally constituted body responsible for determining these matters…”

In the continued absence of “locally owned arrangements”, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, has appointed a new chair, Anne Henderson, and 4 new members to the Parades Commission for Northern Ireland.  They will replace the current commission members, most of whom were appointed in 2010 by the then NI Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, and will take up their posts on 1 January 2014 .  BBC report here. From the NIO press release [NI Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers] I very much … Read more

Conviction of John Proctor’s murderer eloquent riposte to John Larkin’s proposals

Two weeks ago to almost universal revulsion Attorney General John Larkin proposed an effective amnesty for the crimes of the Troubles. Now the legal process has provided the most eloquent rebuttal to his suggestions. The facts of the murder of RUC reservist John Proctor were as loathsome as so many of the Troubles. Mr. Proctor had just left visiting his wife and newborn son in the Mid Ulster Hospital when he was murdered with an assault rifle by Seamus Martin … Read more

Those wanting a formal amnesty might start by having the honesty and the decency to ask out loud…

Yesterday was notable for people in the British press taking notice of the Attorney General’s unpopular intervention with his suggestion of an amnesty that isn’t quite an amnesty. David Aaronovitch (pointing out that the Old Bailey trial of John Downey is about to commence on January 14th) had this to say in his column in The Times: There is something odd about an Attorney-General, for whatever motives, not defending the process of justice. Politicians have to make shabby compromises, but … Read more

Haass Talks: “Some of the truths which our members might reveal….”

So to pick up where Mark Devenport left off, the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers’ Association (NIRPOA) have released their submission to the Haass Talks. It’s as interesting for what it doesn’t say than what it does… On the current models for probing the past… The adverse effect of the tampering with these institutions has been exacerbated by the appointment to some of them (for example the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, the Historical Enquiries Team) of … Read more

Haass Talks: Any comprehensive truth recovery must be realistic about what can be achieved…

It’s hard to figure what role Richard Haass sees for himself, but I’ve heard it described as a figleaf for OFMdFM to sell themselves at the next election, and as a think in, with the purpose of helping the Executive recalibrate itself around the intractable issues of the last few years. There have been many calls, not least from the Bradley Eames commission, for some kind of comprehensive means of dealing with the legacy of the troubles. Interestingly Henry McDonald … Read more

Update-Mr Allister-you don’t realise when you’ve got a good thing.

Dr Richard Haass was in Dublin this week briefing the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny about the progress he was making on talks here. Responding the TUV leader, Jim Allister questioned why the Irish government were even involved in these talks. He said How do people believe that discussions with a foreign government will help to ease Loyalist fears about their identity and sovereignty and why have the DUP and UUP agreed to such a process? I don’t actually dislike Jim Allister. … Read more