What to #20YearRule papers tell us about gender balance in public appointments?

DECLASSIFIED PAPERS from the Department of Economic Development in 1990 show that women accounted for just 1 in 6 of its public appointments. DETI figures for 2015 show that the proportion of female appointees had nearly doubled, and overall OFMdFM figures for 2015 show female appointments at 38%. There is a commitment for gender equality of in-year appointments by 2018, and of all appointees in post by 2021.

NI Attorney General on post-brexit future: “not one word or phrase in the Belfast Agreement” would be affected

There might be another, somewhat related, reason why Sinn Féin delegated their now-backbench MLA, John O’Dowd, to front the party’s support for the High Court legal action against Brexit – as a party of the NI Executive they may have seen legal advice from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin, QC. Earlier reports seemed to suggest that, having “written to the parties indicating his belief the cases raise a devolution issue around constitutional arrangements“, and the applicants subsequent agreement to a notice … Read more

French President Francois Hollande :”The negotiations will be conducted with the United Kingdom, not with a part of the United Kingdom”

With the UK Parliament sovereign, and Sinn Féin’s calls for a border poll dismissed as an unwelcome distraction, quite where the “very special place” Martin McGuinness thinks Northern Ireland is in isn’t entirely clear.  Nor whom he thinks he can press that “case” with in his attempt to ignore the UK-wide referendum result.  He should remember, however, that neither he nor his party, alone, speak for the Northern Ireland Executive. He should also pay very close attention to the responses the Scottish First Minister is … Read more

Taoiseach on Border Poll: “There are much more serious issues to deal with in the immediate terms and that is where our focus is.”

Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, was, rightly, quick to dismiss Sinn Féin’s attempted distraction predictably opportunistic call for a border poll following the EU referendum result.  Here’s what she told Radio Ulster listeners “The Good Friday Agreement sets out the conditions under which I am required to call for a border poll – those are when I believe that there’s a reasonable likelihood that there would be a majority for a united Ireland,” [Theresa Villiers] said. “There’s nothing to … Read more

Soapbox: Disability, gender and sexual orientation policies hived off to Communities

Reprinted here with permission of Brian Barrington, a former SDLP advisor from his own Facebook page this morning… One of the decisions made when the Northern Ireland Executive was first established was to keep all aspects of equality policy in the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM). There were two reasons for this. First, because OFMDFM was the secretariat to the Executive. Therefore, any paper from a department going to the Executive could be scrutinised on … Read more

Ten years after Cory: has the human rights case been lost?

The Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ) have just published a long delayed report on a conference held  two years ago  to review the state of accountability for covert policing for the controversial  UK Investigatory Powers Bill,   against the background of  what went on during the Troubles. They began by noting that the UK national security and crime institutions MI5 the National Crime Agency operate in the province without specific accountability to the local institutions. This is hardly news. … Read more

McGuinness: “Work on the programme for government has been going on prior to the election for some months.”

With only two weeks set aside to allow the new Northern Ireland Executive’s Programme for Government to be thrashed out, and agreed between the parties, you might think that time was of the essence.  But apparently not… The BBC are reporting that there will be a delay to the start of those negotiations. That may be a surprise to the new Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle, Martin McGuinness.  On Sunday he told the BBC that “On Monday, we will be entering discussions … Read more

Gerry Adams’ White House ‘controversy’: “Quite apart from being bumptious, paranoid and absurdly self-pitying…”

In the Irish News Newton Emerson highlights the unintended consequences of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams’ intemperate outburst following his recent misunderstanding with security at the White House.  From the Irish News GERRY Adams could have been pragmatic and diplomatic about being locked out of President Obama’s St Patrick’s Day reception and simply laughed it off. It is all too believable that the White House has the same hapless jobsworths in its security hut as everywhere else – and that has … Read more

“We say it’s highly improper and unorthodox, effectively OFMDFM are seeking to resist the grant of leave against the Department of Justice.”

A Belfast High Court judge has adjourned the application for a judicial review of the controversial new law criminalising the paying for sex following a last minute intervention by the Northern Ireland Attorney General on behalf of the Office of the NI First and Deputy First Ministers (OFMDFM). Interestingly, as the BBC report notes A barrister representing the [NI Department of Justice] confirmed it was not opposing Ms Lee’s application for a judicial review of the new law, on the basis that an arguable … Read more

“Sinn Féin achieved a welfare system better than the one in Britain, by an average of £94m per year…” – Redux

Back in February 2015, this was Sinn Féin’s original line on the welfare cuts mitigation schemes agreed at the first Stormont Castle Agreement. …Sinn Féin from 2011 onwards opposed the proposed welfare cuts and insisted welfare protection was absolutely fundamental for all citizens. “That is why Sinn Féin politically campaigned against welfare cuts alongside trade unions and grassroots communities. “This principle guided our strategy during the Stormont House negotiations and why, in December last, when the other four Executive parties … Read more

Martin McGuinness: “if the governments move as speedily as we have done, all of this could move very quickly”

After 9 weeks of behind-closed-doors talks, including an exclusive, super-sekrit, meeting in Downing Street with David Cameron, and a less sekrit meeting with Enda Kenny, the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers emerged blinking into the light today to inform the waiting press that… “The core of that agreement, the substance, has already been agreed in dialogue terms between Sinn Féin and the DUP,” [Peter Robinson] said. [added emphasis] So they haven’t put it in writing yet, never mind agreed it … Read more

“The first and deputy first ministers held a private meeting with the prime minister in London..”

Back to political reality, because some recent posts have been less than relevant.  No names, no pack drill.  ANYhoo… As the BBC reports, following the Northern Ireland Secretary of State’s declaration that, “I think it is possible that we could have a deal next week“, the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers, the DUP’s Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, met with the Prime Minister in Downing Street today on Friday 6 November. The BBC reports that There is … Read more

Martin McGuinness: “…it is not conducive to getting a good outcome.”

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness doesn’t appear to have had much to say today about the behind-closed-doors talks at Stormont – apart from telling the BBC’s Chris Page The timeframe for a deal in Stormont’s inter-party talks is “days, not weeks”, the deputy first minister has said. Martin McGuinness said he believed a deal was “achievable” and that the talks process was “intensifying”. Still, it’s good to see Sinn Féin on the same page as the Prime Minister, David Cameron, at … Read more

“Provisional IRA members believe the Provisional Army Council oversees both PIRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy.”

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, has published the  assessment of “the structure, role and purpose of paramilitary groups focusing on those which declared ceasefires in order to support and facilitate the political process”.  Theresa Villiers’ statement to Parliament is here. The letter to the Secretary of State [pdf file] from the independent reviewers confirming the completion of their assessment is also available. We are satisfied that: i) MI5 and PSNI have engaged fully with us, consistent with their duties and constraints: … Read more

NI Commissioner for Public Appointments: “We just do not have diverse representation on our public boards.”

The new Commissioner for Public Appointments in Northern Ireland, Judena Leslie, made her first media appearance on BBC NI’s The View last week.  And she began where her predecessor left off, criticising the lack of diversity in those public appointments.  From the BBC report Northern Ireland has about 1,400 public appointments, ranging from unpaid boards of further education colleges to many high profile paid positions. Women, ethnic minorities and people with a disability are all under-represented on public bodies. Thirty-three … Read more

“The real story is not the existence of some skeleton structure, but the sound of gunfire…”

It’s not the still-extant Provisional IRA structures that are the immediate cause for concern, although “stupid” questions could, and should, be asked about their ultimate purpose, it’s the involvement of those Provisional IRA ‘structures’ in the events leading up to, and including, the murder of Kevin McGuigan, and the continued denials [of that reality! – Ed] which have followed. As I mentioned previously …a key element in the recent events under investigation, which I noted previously, [is] the Provisional IRA investigation into … Read more

“Still, there are words for the sort of reception meted out, and the most polite are ‘low’ and ‘key’.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… or, rather, as far away from the ranch as you can reasonably get…  For the benefit of those concerned about accountability and the democratic process…  Liam Clarke has some points to make about Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, and the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness’ recent, separate, trips to the US. In that situation, how much priority would you give when tapped on the arm and told that the Northern Ireland … Read more

NI Public Appointments Commissioner: “Despite all the supportive talk in principle I don’t see any change in the public appointment process.”

When the previous Commissioner for Public Appointments in Northern Ireland, Felicity Huston, stepped down from the role in 2011 she, pointedly, wished whoever her successor would be “the best of luck”, noting that She said there were difficulties asserting her role as a regulator at Stormont. “People recruit people who look like them, sound like them and have the same life and work experiences,” she said. The commissioner said there were other issues about the independence of her position. “The … Read more

“future banknote designs, starting with the new polymer £5 note, will explicitly represent all four nations of the UK.”

As mentioned in this BBC report focused on the first Bank of England polymer banknote – a £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill which will be issued in 2016. Banknotes will feature images from all four nations of the UK starting with the new £5 note entering circulation in 2016. [Timing, eh? – Ed]  Eh?  From the Bank of England press release Chief Cashier, Victoria Cleland said: “The Bank is delighted with the number and breadth of the nominations we … Read more