The royal wedding: an entertainment that is also an investment in the future of the British state

The wedding of the Kilkeels belongs in that part of the human imagination that houses dreams and fantasy.   With identity such a great part of the imagination  on our island,  it is easily recognised as such, although what part of the imagination is affected can sharply differ. My memories are vivid of the pretty decent royal coverage in the Dublin media in 1973  when I was covering  the trial in Winchester of Gerry Kelly, the Price sisters and five others … Read more

On Brexit we’re about to enter the eye of the storm before the relative calm

It’s the solemn duty of all professional  commentators always to be interesting, even at the expense of consistency with writers in their own paper or even with  themselves.  And this is a terrific time for fascinating chaos and confusion.  Where  official  “lines to take” are  not banal they are tangled up  and  inconsistent,  reflecting  the fact that over Brexit, a chronically divided cabinet are singing like birds. Tension is ramped up before yet another deadline to be missed whether it’s … Read more

“The third lesson of this episode stretches far beyond Israel-Palestine…”

The Palestinian leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, has been widely condemned for his anti-Semitic remarks in a televised speech addressing a meeting of the Palestinian National Council on Monday 30th April.  Among his critics, as the Belfast Telegraph notes, former US Secretary of State John Kerry Former US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote on Twitter: “These comments are wrong, ugly, and unacceptable – anywhere from anyone – but particularly from anyone who says he wants to be a peacemaker. No … Read more

The media’s inability to tear Corbyn down is no surprise to people in Ireland. Our media has been failing to tear Sinn Féin down for decades.

In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn has come under an attack from the establishment media the likes of which we have never seen an opposition leader be subjected to before. Just about everything has been thrown at him, from IRA sympathising, colluding with Czech spies, anti-Semitism, to taking three hours to congratulate William and Kate on the birth of their third child. Importantly however, nothing has stuck. Corbyn continues to shrug it off, rise in the polls and remains on track … Read more

“I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border…”

Played up is right.  Labour Party front bencher, the shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, a former NIO minister, has apologised for “informal remarks in a meeting last month“, in particular, that his “use of the word ‘shibboleth’ in its sense of ‘password’ or ‘test of membership’ gave the impression that I thought the Good Friday Agreement was in any way outdated or unimportant. I absolutely do not.”  Which is fine.  But his recorded comments, last month, during a Q&A session after a speech … Read more

Transfixed by their obsessions without progress, they ignore the real politics of the future …

Following on from Peter Donaghy’s  really interesting corrective post comparing ROI/NI household income, what about the Budget then?  How did it go down with you over the tray bake or down the pub? Yes, I’ll bet you were riveted. The frustration in veteran economic commentator John Simpson’s measured prose is clear enough.  The British government know they can spin the budget without facing direct challenge.  Punch drunk civil society reacts wearily, having made similar points for years to little avail … Read more

“A feature of the devolved administration here has been that the two main parties have been sensitive to criticism…”

The BBC reported a telling admission from the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, David Sterling, during the RHI Inquiry yesterday. Mr Sterling said the practice of taking minutes had “lapsed” after devolution when engagement between civil servants and local ministers became much more regular. But he said it was also an attempt to frustrate Freedom of Information requests. Mr Sterling said ministers liked to have a “safe space where they could think the unthinkable and not necessarily have … Read more

Direct Rule in action: “In the light of the ongoing absence of an Executive…”

Northern Ireland Assembly Legislative Consent Motions, required by the UK Parliament to legislate on devolved matters, may have been devalued by the absence of a protest by the then NI Assembly Speaker in March 2015, but the UK Government could at least pretend that one had been passed at that time.  Yesterday there was no such pretence by Steve Brine (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health).  Welcome to Direct Rule… My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Lord O’Shaughnessy) … Read more

Picks of the Week – First Communions, Protestant Gaels, Squaddies and Stuckness

There’s a lot of highfalutin political goings on at the moment. But what are the ordinary humans talking about? Here are some media magpie treasures from the last week… RTÉ Documentary on One rebroadcast the gorgeous 2014 doc, Mairead’s First Communion. It follows two culturally Catholic, but non-religious, parents’ experience of their daughter’s First Communion. They didn’t like the idea of her doing it, but 8 year old Mairead really wanted to, so they let her. There’s so much to … Read more

Equality has arrived but the DUP and Sinn Fein have yet to face up to what it means

“Equality” has always been a Sinn Fein buzzword. As the recanted ex- IRA man Shane Paul O’Doherty lethally today quoted Gerry Adams speaking in 2014: “The point is to actually break these bastards – that’s the point. And what’s going to break them is equality … That’s what we need to keep the focus on – that’s the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy is to reach out to people on the basis of equality.” Other views are  un-cynical … Read more

Sceptical, not cynical about “the long drawn out attempt to breathe life back into the Stormont arrangement”

Whilst on Saturday Brian highlighted the question of “the prospect of Sinn Fein’s return to Stormont as Mr Adams’ parting gift”, today Ed Moloney posits another, equally plausible scenario… You know, a cynic might suspect that the whole thing, at least the long drawn out attempt to breathe life back into the Stormont arrangement, was staged or timed so that the breakthrough would happen just when Sinn Fein want to present a new, Adams-free image to the electorate down South, one … Read more

Don’t you know who I am?

As the BBC reports Sinn Féin has confirmed that one of their MLA’s has removed a clamp from the front wheel of his car, using what appears to be bolt cutters, in Belfast. In a statement, a spokesperson for the party confirmed that Gerry Kelly removed the clamp at about 07:20 GMT on Friday outside a gym. A recording of the incident has been posted on social media. The Belfast Telegraph report notes The footage was captured in the Exchange … Read more

“In Kenova’s sights are also those IRA leaders on the Provisional Army Council who sanctioned the “executions” for spying…”

The BBC reports that Freddie Scappaticci has been arrested in England by the Operation Kenova team and is being questioned “in connection with the investigation into allegations of murder, kidnap and torture”. [Scappaticci is pictured above – bottom left with dark moustache at funeral of Provisional IRA member Larry Marley] The investigation team confirmed that a 72-year-old man had been arrested. The BBC understands the man being questioned is Fred Scappaticci and that he was arrested in England. The investigation … Read more

“Dissent is an imaginative act as well as a moral one….”

This long essay by Colin Murphy is essential reading for anyone who is even vaguely disturbed by the group mind approach to the reporting of politics and other matters of public import. He begins by focusing on Ireland’s dangerous predilection for consensuses and segues gently into how the liberal consensus is misdirecting journalist into rash and early judgements on supporters of Brexit and Trump.. Speaking truth to power is something we’re not very good at in this country and culture. … Read more

“As with the hardest essay questions, there is no right answer but many wrong ones.”

Writing in the Guardian, “former Downing Street Brexit spokesperson”, Matthew O’Toole [no relation – Ed] has some intelligent, and interesting, things to say about “the psychology of imagined identity” here, and the task facing the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, as well as the UK Prime Minister in the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. [Definitely no relation! – Ed] From the Guardian article As Bradley will discover, Brexit has unsettled one of the most intangible but … Read more

“Any political party that vetoes the re-establishment of the Northern Assembly until further human rights are recognised (or not) is putting the cart before the horse.”

As Newton Emerson pointed out in Saturday’s Irish News, Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, and erstwhile “father of an all singing, all dancing Northern Ireland Human Rights Bill“, Professor Brice Dickson, has had something to say about ‘red lines’ and a ‘rights-based’ society.  From the Irish News article Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, Prof Brice Dickson, has penned a robust article in the Irish Times explaining that the Stormont talks issues Sinn Féin is describing as “rights” are … Read more

“The truth remains that Adams will only reveal his past if it suits his own agenda.”

We might never know the truth about the suggestion that Gerry Adams was responsible, directly or indirectly, for setting up the Provisional IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade for ambush as they tried to blow up a police station in Loughgall in May 1987.  Sinn Féin have dismissed the claims as “utter nonsense”, and some of the usual suspects have busied themselves playing the man – and/or the media. Meanwhile, Ed Moloney provides some useful background, and reproduces the chapter in his book ‘A Secret … Read more

“Perhaps we can begin with social parity.”

Writing in the Guardian, Richard Angell, LGBT officer of the Labour Irish Society and director of Progress, has an interesting suggestion Owen Smith is right to say that if the parties of Northern Ireland cannot get their act together and restore power-sharing government then direct rule, however undesirable, must be used to make progress on LGBT and reproductive rights. But he is wrong to say that referendums are necessary to give a mandate for change. For one, thing they are not required. Unlike in the … Read more

“The fact that all of the other parties in the Dáil rallied around to wave the green flag on Tuesday demonstrates not that the Government got it right but that it successfully pandered to populist sentiment”

In the Irish Times, Stephen Collins on the risks involved in the Irish Government’s public positioning over the ongoing Brexit negotiations.  From the Irish Times article The British government and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are the ones primarily responsible for Monday’s debacle, but the Irish Government didn’t exactly cover itself in glory. The way Tánaiste Simon Coveney jumped the gun with a premature radio interview on Monday morning and the subsequent mood music suggesting that the Irish side had … Read more