Special advisor pay: as opaque as ever

The News Letter has an interesting item on the pay for special advisors (SPADS). These advisors are picked by the minister and the normal process of competition is not followed: that may well be fair enough and certainly occurs at Westminster. Unlike Whitehall SPADs, however, the pay for the Stomont’s SPADs is not published: rather salary bands are published; the maximum a SPAD can earn is now £90,000. That £90,000 figure is interesting as it is a rise from £82,531 …

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Where’s Stormont’s incentive for being good at Politics…?

I noticed a tweet from Eamonn earlier on noting how both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness managed to keep their holidays intact whilst David Cameron had no such luck. It’s been a strange inversion of past realities to see the British PM running to keep up with the multiple crises besetting his country, whilst our boys take it easy in Florida, or by some fast flowing river in Donegal. Spare a thought too for Enda Kenny et al, whose feet …

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Paisley and Prospero mark 2

This week Dr. Paisley left Stormont for the last time as an elected member of the Assembly. This is an update of a blog I did almost three years ago but I thought I would recycle it: At the end of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero turns to the audience and says “Now my charms are all o’erthrown And what strength I have’s mine own.” Now at the end, it seems, of his political career (though he does of course remain …

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Preparing for another Groundhog Day Election?

Nice piece from Alex Kane again this week, in which he points to the current stasis in which Northern Irish administration suffers: 13 years since the 1998 referendum and weeks away from the fourth assembly, there is still no evidence that the parties have any interest in agreeing a radical, era-changing agenda for what is supposedly the ‘new’ Northern Ireland. They still plan for the future with the signposts from the past and prefer to settle scores rather than govern …

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No goat about the place

The BBC and Belfast Telegraph have a story about a lady called Maya Dunthorpe from East Belfast who has walked her goat in the grounds of Stormont for the past few months. Apparently in the past the security guards have not minded but now Ms. Dunthorpe and her goat (Stan) have been told that they are no longer welcome on the estate. It seems that if Stan attacked someone or caused an accident, there’d be no insurance and only dogs …

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We’ll All Pay for Devolved Administrations’ Budget Cuts

The reality of massive public spending cuts has finally hit the devolved administrations (if not all their politicians). As Mick highlighted in his recent essay, NICVA’s report suggests that Stormont will have to make budget cuts of (at least) £1.2 billion in the next five years. Earlier today, the Independent Budget Review in Scotland recommended a fall in public sector employment of between 5.7% and 10% by 2014-15. In both Scotland and Northern Ireland, the debate about ring fencing health spending (which …

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FitzGerald: How a single Dail debate lanced a bloody boil of war…

I’ve no doubt we will hear more about the way we need to handle the past in the wake of the publication of last week’s publication of the Saville report. But I was struck by Garrett FitzGerald’s piece in Saturday’s Irish Times which subtly highlights the difference – at the time of the shootings – between having a functional democratic parliamentary assembly (ie the Oireachtas), and having a supremely dysfunctional one (ie, contemporary Stormont) in this personal anecdote, first on …

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Pressure for legal action widens as politicians flounder over Troubles legacy

Two very different newspaper stories reveal how reaching consensus over dealing with the past is looking increasingly difficult, with the balance appearing to tilt in favour of  legal action.  One based on a letter from unnamed paratroops accuses Lord Saville of a “cynical exercise” in blaming Col Derek Wilford, OC 1 Para, to avoid condemning junior soldiers but produces no fresh evidence or admissions. The soldiers involved could of course clear the matter up even yet. The other story shows …

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DUP to block Gaza debate at Stormont today…

The DUP is moving to block a vote on the emergency Gazza debate today through using a ‘petition of concern.’ Mover of motion is William Irwin. The debate was proposed by independent MLAs Gerry McHugh and Dr Keiran Deeny, and supported by at least 30 MLAs. Under Standing Order 11 of the rules that govern the Assembly, if the First Minister/deputy First Minister or at least 30 MLAs request a special sitting, the Assembly can be recalled. The plenary sitting …

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Did you get to use your vote this year?

Jonathan reckons that the electoral fortunes of several parties (Sir Reg Empey fights for his life at a meeting of his party’s Executive this Saturday) swung on a very small number of voters in Northern Ireland: 2,721 votes cast out of a total of 673,871 doesn’t seem much.  That’s because it’s not.  In fact, it’s a paltry 0.4%, but in business and in politics, it’s victory in the margins which can make all the difference. Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. …

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Stormont: a brief retrospective; then glimpsing forward…

Stormont View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: transformation conflict) Last Thursday I was asked by NICVA to present to a range of voluntary organisations on the first 19 months of the reinstated democratic institutions. I began with a reminder of where we’d been before; and the significance, in public diplomacy terms, of the Chuckle Brothers routine. And thence on to where I believe the events (and non events) of the last 19 months have taken us. The presentation …

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Suspension; eye witness

In the subscription only Irish News Newton Emerson, editor of the satirical website Portadown News was in Stormont on the last day of business. One thing that consistently erks the reasonable middle ground parties is the way that most commentators rarely talk to them: “The Women’s Coalition are first to brave the spotlight. Cruelly, several reporters take this opportunity to make final adjustments to their cameras and microphones. There are no questions. As they leave, the DUP arrives and the …

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