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

Stormont House: A Progressive Unionist Alternative

PROGRESSIVE ALTERNATIVE: Lowering Corporation Tax is not the magic wand which many believe it to be, argues PUP Cllr Julie Anne Corr-Jonnson. How many will invest the tax cut in nice holidays and better cars as opposed to the creation of new jobs? There are no sanctions, no prohibitions and no guarantees.

Is it time to reduce the number of our MLAs?

CUTTING THE MLAS: Tomorrow the Assembly will debate this motion brought forward by the Alliance party. The party claims that if this measure is introduced by the next election that it could see a saving of £11 million over the course of the next assembly term.

A Fresh Start: How does it add up?

MONEY GAME: Most of the new money is dedicated to issues that are Northern Ireland specific.
A total of £188m will be made available for security-related spending. The PSNI will get an unconditional £160m over the next five years to tackle dissident republicans and other paramilitaries.

A Deal Today?

This in from the BBC Political Editor, Mark Devenport hints that we may have a deal but not as comprehensive as some might like; Expectation that politicians may press ahead without resolving legacy issues and welfare cld be dealt with Westminster leg consent motion — Mark Devenport (@markdevenport) November 17, 2015 The SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood had this to say about a possible deal today The SDLP has a high standard for any outcome in this process. After so much … Read more

Northern Ireland’s games of simultaneous political chess continue …

Even with a budgetary crisis looming over the Stormont institutions, other threads are still being woven into the political narrative. To switch metaphors, it’s like three games of chess being played simultaneously: one short-term game against the clock, another medium-term, and a long-term strategy being played out on a third board. So in the last week I’ve heard: Gerry Kelly challenge my defeatist attitude around the inevitability of welfare cuts if the Executive collapses (and the locally-tempered reforms are lost … Read more

The welfare crisis deepens. The DUP are making common cause with Sinn Fein over George Osborne’s cuts

The Guardian’s Politics Live feature reports an analysis of the impact of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill on the working poor.  Read across locally, it has the effect of adding the DUP’s opposition to the UK’s government’s budget strategy  to Sinn Fein’s, albeit on more limited grounds. The analysis was made by the highly reputable, unbiased House of Commons library and commissioned by Frank Field, the veteran free thinking Labour MP who is a leading authority on welfare and social policy. … Read more

Theresa Villiers is a semi-detached secretary of state. She needs to focus up, or go.

Mick’s post brings out the striking  ontrast between this debate in the Dail and how Westminster is currently dealing with Northern Ireland.  There is a powerful irony that Dublin is far more interested in our affairs than London, even though London as the paymasters has the overwhelming responsibility. In NI questions on the same day,Theresa Villiers limited herself to a fatalistic statement of the position  on deadlock. Although she has met the parties there have been no serious attempts at … Read more

Political leadership shouldn’t resort to the handbrake every time the speed of the car needs to be corrected

One difficulty with political negotiations in Northern Ireland is the need to negotiate in multiple planes. Firstly there has to be give and take between the DUP and Sinn Féin. Then while delicately balancing this agreed framework, equilibrium has to be maintained while the three smaller parties – SDLP, UUP and Alliance – are given their opportunity to shake the scaffolding and bolt on some of their own tweaks and issues. After the DUP and Sinn Féin had reached an … Read more

What Austerity is what it isn’t (and, really how not to haggle)…

Now, notwithstanding the sage advice of Chris Dillow that “understanding support for austerity requires not an economist but a psychologist”, here’s Newton Emerson to duly report that whatever Northern Ireland is suffering, it sure ain’t austerity: HNIW9 from The Detail on Vimeo. There’s the narrow case that Newton makes here, but to that you can add the fact that the Treasury has been quietly doing what Greece has been requesting which is quietly restructuring Northern Ireland’s debt to release up … Read more

Let us move past the age of ‘Stormont Shambles’ and work for an Official Opposition…

From Andrew Wooster, Deputy Chair of QUB Conservative Future… I recall reading the Stormont House Agreement on the 23 December 2014, and albeit a scepticism on Stormont’s ability to deliver, there was a feeling of genuine hope after the inclusion of a proposal for an Official Opposition. Since I have become politically minded, I have supported the introduction of such a structure to enable Stormont to work as a truly democratic system. The proposal was found in Article 29 of the … Read more

“A Battle A Day” Is Creating A Political Wasteland

“It will always be a battle a day between those who want maximum change and those who want to maintain the status quo”. Recognise the quote? It came from Gerry Adams’ speech calling for the IRA to permanently abandon violence in 2005. Just a few days before the 2007 Assembly Elections that restored devolved government, Peter Robinson concurred with Adams’ assessment in a BBC Radio Ulster interview. Asked whether a government jointly led by his party and Gerry Adams’ could … Read more

Truth or Consequences: the potential impact of un-devolving welfare

One of the more idiosyncratic aspects of life in Northern Ireland is that the sort of constitutional crisis that would leave most countries in a spate of ear-to-the-radio, markets-tumbling panic, barely passes as newsworthy. The threat of dissolution of the Assembly and the end of the power-sharing Executive is regarded with the same complete lack of interest that, say, Louis Walsh threatening to leave the X Factor again might be. Indeed, such is the widely perceived ineptitude of the devolved … Read more

Not all the zombies are politicians. This is also civil society’s failure

Not so long ago, Northern Ireland  politics were conducted in a seething cauldron. Today they’re in zombieland.  Nobody seems to know what sort of situation is facing  Northern Ireland in the  forthcoming days, weeks and months. Your starter for 10. Is it bailout, surrender or just staggering on?   At home, nobody can be bothered even to do an informed analysis of the costs of continuing denial. Malachi, like myself no economist,  is no better informed but is properly  uneasy .  In … Read more

Over the Welfare Bill impasse, a few points of clarification should do it for anybody with sense

In her first move as finance minister, Arlene Foster is right to echo Theresa Villiers in ramping up pressure  to implement  the Stormont House Agreement and pass the £ 10 billion budget and the Welfare Bill. Unless Sinn Fein gives way, the budget will have a  £500 million gap. Funding for 30,000 public sector redundancies will be withheld and corporation tax will not devolved to Stormont. No doubt before the election the DUP were hoping for a modest improvement in what was … Read more

The election exposed the faint breath of a desire for change within the sectarian camps.

All true democrats should thrilled to have it confirmed that politics is not dominated by the polls. Real people apparently can think for themselves. Locally LucidTalk’s amazingly hairy exercises with opinion panels fared better  in the prediction stakes than the  UK national pollsters, even though playing percentages  is a whole lot easier than making firm predictions. Small shifts in turnout and opinion made all the difference. Looking at it from across the water, your campaign was generally beyond embarrassment. The … Read more

“It would be somewhat hypocritical to turn round and support strike action…”

listen to ‘Sinn Fein Flip Flop ’ on audioBoom On Talkback today, Will Crawley played this recording of Sinn Fein Education Minister John O’Dowd to remind Declan Kearney of his party’s disapproving stance of the strikes today, just last week: But this [strike] is part of an opposition to the Stormont House Agreement, and I think that’s a mistake. There is a fundamental mistake in the strategy of the unions that are being opposed to the Stormont House Agreement. I … Read more

Eamonn McCann: It was the Unions wot won it…

So, we are still none the wiser after yesterday’s dossier (the absence of figures or a balance in the correspondence therein meant it crashed out of the headlines last night) exactly why Sinn Fein pulled that reverse ferret on Welfare Reform. In the Irish Times, Eamonn McCann has what looks like a credible theory (€): the Union day of action tomorrow: The prospect of being at loggerheads with the unions has dismayed many in Sinn Féin. The party’s ardfheis in … Read more