The tension between Politics and the Law…

In modern society there is a tension between democracy and the law which has always existed throughout history. Democracy at its most absolute is tyrannical, brutish and often short lived because of the mass hysteria which can engulf otherwise rational people when they act as a group. Psychologists called this ‘groupthink’ in the 20th century, ever since we found this flaw we quickly discovered that it had actually given us our most valuable skill putting us at the top of …

Read more…

The polite rebel: Sheelagh Murnaghan

The polite rebel: Sheelagh Murnaghan by Allan LEONARD 3 October 2019 Sheelagh Murnaghan was the only Liberal Party MP (1961-69) in the Northern Ireland Parliament, representing the constituency of Queen’s University Belfast, which was the venue for a launch event of a new biography about her remarkable life. There were many Murnaghan family members in the audience of a few dozen attending. The book, Sheelagh Murnaghan, was commissioned by the Albert McElroy Memorial Fund, which was established to commemorate the …

Read more…

Environmental Governance Failure in Northern Ireland: High Time to Turn Over a New Leaf

By Ciara Brennan, Ray Purdy and Peter Hjerp Recent scandals including the RHI debacle and the discovery of illegal dumping on a massive scale (most notably at the Mobuoy Road ‘super-dump’) have catapulted Northern Ireland’s environmental governance failures into the public eye. The divergence from what can be considered ‘good’ environmental governance is clear and the environmental, economic and socio-political consequences of these failures cannot be overestimated. Protecting the environment is not a one-way cost and there has been very little …

Read more…

The man who died from “an overdose of police”

Heard the one about the comedian whom the police seemed duty-bound to keep arresting whenever he swore on stage? Just thinking of such a scenario seems utterly incredible in our times. For all the complaints about political correctness and how We Can’t Say Anything in This PC Age, the truth is that speech today is considerably freer than many realize. It is certainly freer for stand-up comics than it used to be. Although he would not live to enjoy the …

Read more…

Kingsmill, Loughinisland, Stakeknife. New disclosure on collusion has begun that the State can’t control and must answer. The time has come for proper explanations

  Hints are constantly being dropped that the Executive are close to agreement about setting up the new institutions to deal with the past, basically as laid out in the Haass report two years ago.    After last week, it can’t come quick enough.  A draft Bill to set up new legacy bodies is ready and waiting. A flood of consequences emerged from some of the worst incidents of the Troubles, lining up to be tackled. 70 murders connected to Loughinisland. …

Read more…

Should MLAs merely serve the pure technology of the law, or seek to change it?

Following on from yesterday’s, here’s some additional thoughts, in which I argue that we all may be getting a little too comfortable with letting judges frame law instead of our elected “Lawmakers” at Stormont… listen to ‘Is law taking primacy over democracy in NI?’ on audioBoom Most recently there has been the recent Asher’s cake row, of which Fintan O’Toole had this to say a few weeks back… There’s a big difference between outlawing discrimination on the one hand and forcing people …

Read more…

Is the Left being slowly being displaced by a new form of ‘Irish Poujadisme’?

Before I draw in for the weekend, there’s a very good piece by Noel Whelan in the Irish Times (€!) from yesterday which is well worth mentioning… It’s on the nature of protest, and its legitimate limits. In the tail of the piece he also raises another more political question, which he directs at the left-led protests against the installation of water meters in the Republic: which is about the protection of workers going about their business. First Whelan’s take …

Read more…

Calumnies sting without disabling; and those stung are moved by hatred of their detractors

“Oh, yes–you can shout me down, I know! But you cannot answer me.” Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People It’s taken two weeks for a mainstream journalist to commit to print some kind of defence of Sinn Fein and raise questions about Mairia Cahill’s credibility. Roy Greenslade has interesting views on the matter, not least because he breaks the news that… …the programme itself is now under fire. It is claimed that the makers failed to take account of the …

Read more…

Policing Board member Gerry Kelly sues Board’s own ’employee’ the Chief Constable of the PSNI

Given the currency of the debate on reform of the Garda oversight system in the Republic, and Sinn Fein’s settled view that an NI style policing board system – ie, where power is distributed between a basket of political parties – is preferable to direct control by the minister it’s a little odd that their most senior representative on the PBNI has, as the Belfast Telegraph reports: “…taken a civil case against the PSNI chief constable (Matt Baggott) over the …

Read more…

Road Traffic Accidents: Accidents not crimes

A few weeks ago I noted the slight rise in road deaths in NI during 2013. I also noted the worrying tendency to regard all accidents as someone’s fault: often criminally someone’s fault. Hence the inappropriate change in routine terminology from Road Traffic Accident to Road Traffic Collision. A couple of tragic cases have recently pointed to the overenthusiasm of the authorities to prosecute those involved in accidents and in one case the good sense of the general public (and …

Read more…

#Borgen: Dramatic lessons on prostitution for Northern Ireland’s lawmakers?

Theatre and democracy had grown up together and were inextricably linked in the Athenian mind. Dr Michael Scott, The Greatest Show on Earth So human trafficking, and making prostitution illegal.  Such are the maximalist ambitions behind Lord Morrow’s private members bill.  The French lower house has just passed such a law up to the Senate. But it was also part of a fictional treatment on the Danish political drama last weekend. The Swedish research that’s been cited in the Northern …

Read more…

A cold house for Roma

A week ago, Greek police searching a Roma camp discovered a child who looked as though she didn’t belong there. DNA testing proved them – at least in biological terms – correct.

An Garda Síochána were not so lucky.

Read more…

Free speech under pressure or action against inflammatory comments?

Ought we to be a mite concerned about protecting free speech from officious prosecutions, even when the comments are “obnoxious”, in the opinion of a district judge?  I hold no brief for Ruth Patterson’s “alleged” comments on Facebook which it’s customary not to repeat once someone is charged and for which she has apologised. This Derry case is a sign of changed times. Amazing to learn that a “youth” has been fined in Derry for making “ derogatory remarks” in …

Read more…

“The problem with having a law against everything…”

Priceless insight from Newton Emerson in today’s round of the week in the Irish News in which he highlights a key flaw in Tony Blair’s signal legislative response to the 7/7 bombings in 2005, the Terrorism Act of 2006, is that with its redefinition of ‘incitement’ as ‘encouragement’ the burden of proof has become so incredibly low that the choice of when to use it (or more interestingly) when not to use it “becomes a purely political act”… Mick FealtyMick …

Read more…

Sinn Fein defamation of Declan Gormley, and what comes next

So the news from the Belfast High Court is that a jury has found Sinn Fein guilty of defaming of Declan Gormley, one of four non executive directors of Northern Ireland Water sacked by Sinn Fein’s former DRD minster and Westminster MP, Conor Murphy. The trial took an extraordinary 10 days in court. Ten days in which Mr Gormley, the plaintiff spent an equally extraordinary five days in the witness stand being questioned by Sinn Fein’s counsel. The party’s defence …

Read more…

Abortion clinic opens in Belfast…

NORTHERN Ireland is to get its first abortion clinic next week. In one of the biggest stories of our generation – and one which will unite hardline Protestants and Catholics – it’s reported that Marie Stopes will open for business in Belfast next Thursday, with the help of former PUP leader Dawn Purvis. The organisation says it will operate within the framework of the law here, but that will do little to assuage the anger of opponents, who will see …

Read more…

#TheaterShootings: Advances in weapon technology makes the US Constitution a poor defence against lone wolf ‘terrorists’

Quite separately from the human tragedy of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado the intriguing issue of gun law in the US comes, once more to the fore. This seems to work on two levels: public safety; and the principles of ‘spontaneous order’ which so coloured the thinking of the founding fathers of the United States itself. One outbats the other when it comes to priorities when it comes to American politics. It took a Conservative [Of sorts – Ed], to …

Read more…

Penal Laws: “full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts”

And nice piece on that greatest of Irish parliamentarian, Edmund Burke: For all his rise to political fame, and nearly to power, in the greatest imperial corridors of his time, he never forgot that his native land was essentially enslaved by the very government for which he labored with such skill and flair. On the January day he was born Éamon de Búrca, in the old tongue, in 1729, on Arran Quay on the River Liffey in Dublin, the English …

Read more…