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Showing posts from April, 2008

IFA in invitational league chaos

The blog you’re about to read deals with something I know very little about. "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose", mutter regular readers. On this occasion I have an excuse for ignorance though, as my chosen topic is the Irish Football Association’s planned invitational league. You see, the IFA itself has yet to actually decide the format next season’s senior domestic league will assume, despite the fact that it will kick off in less than four months time.

This would be rather astonishing in any other UEFA jurisdiction, but in Northern Ireland it has barely raised an eyebrow, because frankly we are accustomed to bungling and confusion from our governing body. They have announced a broad intention that there should be 12 teams in the new league and that those teams will be selected from a group of 14 which have been granted ‘domestic licences’ by the IFA. Otherwise the details are sketchy and have not yet been finalised.

A clue as to the league’s composition ca…

They may be nationalist separatists, but they're our nationalist separatists

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When the US, UK and others assented to the dismemberment of Serbia along ethno-nationalist lines, there was an expectation that separatist movements throughout Europe and beyond would garner encouragement. Two autonomous republics of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, that are de facto independent from the authorities in Tbilisi, were said to be amongst those which might take the opportunity to make their own unilateral declarations of independence.

These regions of the Caucasus did not assent to Georgia’s own claims of independence, asserted as the USSR split up in 1991. Majorities in both regions claim close allegiance to Moscow. In 2006 80% of Abkhazians had taken Russian citizenship. When Russia objected to Kosovo’s declaration of sovereignty being recognised, and was ignored, the temptation to further underpin pro-Russian breakaway republics elsewhere was inevitably going to be strong.

So it has proved. Vladimir Putin recently urged his government to consolidate ties with t…

Wright leaves Sky Blues rudderless

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In May 1989, still some six months before the Berlin Wall fell, Ballymena United lifted the Irish Cup at the Oval in Belfast, Paul Hardy’s back heel accounting for Larne in the final. The Braidmen have not lifted a senior trophy since and on Saturday another manager announced his departure from the club.

Like all his predecessors since Alex McKee masterminded the cup win, Tommy Wright’s tenure at the club has ended in failure. The big ex-goalkeeper has been in charge for three seasons having previously enjoyed comparative success as manager of Limavady United. Although he cites personal concerns amongst the reasons for his resignation, the tenor betrays a disappointment with results and the conviction that he has taken the Sky Blues as far as he could.

Wright traces his disillusion to the end of February. Around Christmas Ballymena had strung together a fine run of wins and threatened to mount credible campaigns in the Irish Cup and in the league, where a strong finish might have s…

Queen's student newspaper celebrates man's death

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The Gown is the student newspaper for Queen’s University Belfast and as such those who write in it are (presumably) hoping to become the bright young journalists of the future. As a man who is now no longer in his twenties, I might not be expected to encounter this organ, but my girlfriend studies at Queen’s and therefore ‘The Gown’ has once or twice found its way into our living room.

It is in general a pretty poorly written paper and would not normally merit a second glance, but the latest edition featured a front page splash which was so poorly judged and tasteless that I felt moved to mention it on Three Thousand Versts. The latest ‘Gown’ has decided to adorn its front cover with a piece which fairly transparently celebrates the death of a man who lived in the Holylands.

Under a headline proclaiming “’Scourge on Society’ Found Dead in Holylands” the paper runs an unbalanced article in which it features allegations about Paul Arbuckle terrorising students in the area and vandalis…

Irish Times on NI football - errors and inaccuracies

Somebody called Bryan Coll has been pontificating in the Irish Times about the ‘emerging Northern Ireland’ in a series with the portentous title ‘Out of the Night’. This particular instalment deals with sport, and in particular football and it is worth picking up a number of the more glaring inaccuracies which it contains.

Coll attends a Glentoran vs. Cliftonville match and picks up some of the indicators which suggest a team with support drawn from the unionist community is playing one with support drawn from the nationalist community. He then takes out his broad brush and begins presenting erroneous information.


“Matches between Glentoran and Cliftonville are mild encounters compared to the ultimate religious face-off that is Linfield versus Cliftonville (Northern Ireland's equivalent of the "Old Firm")”

An Old Firm clash is the bitterest rivalry in Scottish football, a Big Two match is Northern Ireland’s equivalent (Glentoran versus Linfield). Linfield versus Cliftonv…

The slightly bizarre world of Northern Ireland's incoming 'first family'

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Suzanne Breen's Sunday Tribune interview with Iris Robinson is what might be described as an ‘eye-opener’. In it we gain an insight, should we want one, into the private life of our soon to be first minister and his wife, and what is revealed is rather twee and vaguely disquieting. Indeed reading passages detailing the history of Iris’ fawning adoration for her husband it might be judicious to keep some manner of receptacle handy in which to project copious quantities of vomit.

“”My mother said, 'there's plenty more fish in the sea'. And I said, 'I don't want fish, I want Peter. Iris got her man: "One evening, Peter appeared on his cream Vespa. 'I'm sorry, take me back', he said.”

Or,

“"He was very handsome, he stood out from the other boys," she recalls. "All the girls danced attention on him. My strategy was to ignore him. I'd walk past him, nose in the air. It worked. He noticed not being noticed and asked me out”


Are merely…

Chelsea FC try to cheat their way to a history

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An aberration from Jean Arne Riise has put Chelsea in the driving seat to reach the Champions League final in Moscow and may be the Norwegian’s last significant contribution at Anfield. Deep into injury time, added on at the whim of disgraceful referee Konrad Plautz, Riise’s attempted headed clearance stole victory from a dominant Liverpool side and gave Chelsea a first leg away goal in the semi-final first leg.

And theft is an apt metaphor to use of a night when Chelsea attempted to cheat their way to the final deploying the dramatic skills of Didier Drogba who attempted to feign injury continuously and the knees and elbows of John Terry who persistently assaulted and fouled Liverpool players throughout the 90 minutes. Terry was eventually booked after chopping down Javier Mescherano at knee height and a competent referee would have been furnishing him with a second yellow and expelling him from the pitch.

The match opened in frenzied fashion and it took some 30 minutes for Liverpo…

Alex Kane. Politics and religion.

Alex Kane is inviting a deluge of angry letters by putting his head above the parapet in the Newsletter to opine “keep your religion out of my politics”. Kane, by his own admission an “evangelical atheist”, believes that religion has been “a destabilising, lunatic and mostly unhelpful aspect of human history”. Unsurprisingly his conclusion is that religion’s influence in politics has been particularly pernicious and he believes that it continues to exude a divisive influence to this day.

On Slugger O’Toole Kane’s article has precipitated a debate as to the extent to which religion has influenced politics in the past, what influence it continues to exert in the present and whether this influence can be said to be wholly negative. I am sympathetic to Kane’s premise, but it is harder to disentangle secular and religious influences in the development of western society (or the UK) than he allows. If we condone extensive elements of the constitutional, political and cultural ethos of …

Coulter plumbs the depths with race war garbage

I have mentioned before the preposterous, gratuitously controversial nonsense propounded by ‘revolutionary unionist’ Dr (!?) John Coulter. This supposed political commentator writes outrageous enough articles for the Blanket, nominally a political journal, but his most florid output is disseminated through that organ of intellectual discourse, the Irish Daily Star.

Normally I would not get too exercised about journalism in such a newspaper, but Coulter’s latest column was on Newshound today and I believe it is an outrageously sensationalist and indeed inflammatory treatment of a serious subject. The article purports to deal with racism in Northern Ireland, an issue which has arisen after xenophobic attacks on Lithuanian immigrants in Cookstown.

Instead of analysing seriously the causes and effects of these attacks and deducing what might be done to prevent them, we have a febrile evocation of the BNP winning the forthcoming London Assembly election, boatloads of jackbooted fascists s…

Can Liverpool add to 5 European Cups and 18 Leagues?

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Liverpool supporters are quick to point out the disparity between the club’s glittering history and the relative lack of a similar tradition at Chelsea. Going into tonight’s semi-final first leg the London club will be acutely conscious, not merely of the inferiority of their record over the longer term, but of more recent history and two previous defeats against Liverpool at this stage of the Champions League.

Liverpool vs. Chelsea fixtures have acquired a deeper resonance since Roman Abrahamovich’s arrival at Stamford Bridge. They represent a clash between football royalty and the game’s nouveau riche. Their character was further sharpened by the personality clash off the field between cerebral Spaniard Rafa Benitez and Chelsea’s brash Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho.

Paradoxically, with the more measured Avram Grant at the helm, Chelsea may be better equipped to withstand the fevered atmosphere of a Champions League semi-final. Benitez has suggested as much and is both wary an…

IFA stick the arm in, then dispatch Dumbo to invite the rest of the circus

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Supporters who attended Northern Ireland games when Windsor Park was rarely full to capacity are to be repaid for their loyalty when the IFA ask them to shell out one payment of £165 for the privilege of watching the team in forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. The block-booking scheme, which forms fans’ only chance of securing tickets for competitive games, will cover 5 matches as opposed to the previous scheme’s 6 and still manages to work out more expensive.

Despite weighing in at a hefty £33 per match, fans’ anger will concentrate on the removal of a 50/50 cost spreading scheme whereby a £10 surcharge allowed the payment to be made in two separate instalments. As ever it will be the most committed supporters who foot the bill and those with low incomes and families will suffer the most.

Although the IFA clearly should not be expected to remain immune from the laws of supply and demand, this short-sighted policy shows scant regard for supporters. There has been considerable expen…

Skidelsky - I was right to oppose intervention in Kosovo

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Robert Skidelsky opposed Nato intervention against Serb counter insurgency in Kosovo from the opposition benches of the House of Lords in 1999. His dissent from the Tory party line cost him his job and put an end to the economist’s brief political career. In the Guardian’s Comment Is Free he argues that hind-sight has proven him right. Skidelsky explicitly equates Kosovo with the subsequent Iraq debacle, seeing in it a precedent for intervention on flimsy evidence, with disregard to international law, which actually caused the situation on the ground to deteriorate.

The first strand of Skidelsky’s argument against intervention at that time, was in fact precisely that it would set up a dangerous and damaging precedent for intervention. Human rights, democracy and self-determination are not legal grounds for going to war against a state unless there is an international consensus as framed and enforced by the UN Security Council. Where human rights abuses are particularly severe, he…

A predictable consequence of undermining Serbia's sovereignty

Predictably outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin has moved to consolidate ties between his government and breakaway Republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia. The areas have enjoyed de facto autonomy since waging separatist wars against the Georgian government in the early 1990s. Majorities in both regions wish for independence from Georgia. In fact there is a striking similarity between these two separatist provinces and the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Unlike the US and other western states which have recognised Kosovo’s independence, Russia is doing so such thing. Putin’s government merely intends to increase cooperation with de facto governments. The United States and European Union have criticised any such moves because they undermine the sovereignty of Georgia. But this is the logical consequence of much more blatant disregard for Serbia’s sovereignty.

A Duke at the Movies

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A word about the Duke Special concert which I attended last night at the Studio in the Waterfront. Duke Special is an artist whose performances reward repeated attendance because two gigs are rarely similar. Last night’s show was part of the Belfast Film Festival and as such it was punctuated by a series of cinema shorts. In addition a puppeteer and a suspended acrobat provided quirky entertainment.

The short films the Duke and his team had chosen were predictably visually arresting. A Czech animation, ‘Songs from the Prairie’, provided something of a recurrent motif for the evening. The movies which accompanied songs were chosen for appropriate atmospherics. The music was as subtle and textured as ever, overlaid last night with the classical intonations of a harpist. In this show the more established tunes took a back seat to new material, although the pounding anthem ‘Salvation Tambourine’ was a highlight.

‘Monsters in the Dust’ is a stand out new song which beautifully revis…

Hicks, Gillett or Parry? Get rid of them all!

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Sandwiched between Liverpool Football Club marking the 19th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and a vital Champions League semi-final tie against Chelsea, Liverpool’s co-owner Tom Hicks has thought it propitious to give an interview to Sky Sports, in which he refers to the club’s chief executive as ‘a disaster’. Hicks’ interview seems to comprise an attempt to re-ingratiate himself with supporters, but in its spectacularly poor timing and its back-biting character these comments are unlikely to restore confidence in the reviled co-owner.

Ironically Hicks comments about Parry do contain a grain of truth. Parry’s fractious relationship with manager Rafa Benitez and his tendency to dawdle in the transfer market, have detrimentally effected attempts to build a world class team and launch a sustained challenge for the Premiership title. In contrast courting Rafa Benitez and making vague promises to clear debt saddled on the club by the American takeover, should he become sole own…

Nationalism which negates the possibility of unionism's existence

Nationalism is a mode of political thought which cannot seem to countenance the possibility that alternative outlooks exist. This is demonstrated by an insistence that such outlooks simply constitute alternative strains of nationalism or by the contention that those who do not align cultural or national identity flush with political statehood are confused about their identity or even lack any ‘true’ sense of identity.

The United Kingdom provides a peculiar conundrum for nationalists, because majority populations in each of the constituent countries actually wish to remain part of the kingdom and are quite comfortable with the plurality of identity which that implies. I have taken the liberty of cutting and pasting part of a comment left on O’Neill’s blog about Welsh nationalists’ campaign to have Land of My Fathers played before the FA Cup Final in deference to Cardiff City’s involvement, in order to illustrate my point.

Fakey (of the teeth-grindingly irritating Fake Empire blog – why…

Internal difficulties bode ill for Robbo

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Peter Robinson has been chosen by his party’s Assembly group to succeed Ian Paisley as leader. The undemocratic nature of this process aside, questions have been raised as to Robinson’s ability to unite the various factions in the DUP. I highlighted an excellent article by Alex Kane on this site, and yesterday on Everything Ulster, which argues that Robinson cannot heal the fissures which ultimately lead to Paisley’s resignation.

On Slugger O’Toole a post which discusses Frank Millar’s updated biography of David Trimble, quotes a paragraph dealing with the future of the process, in which Trimble played such a pivotal role, from the book’s conclusion,

“[the DUP] expect Irish republicans and nationalists to take and sustain the cross community initiatives and outreach necessary to stabilise and secure Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom. That task falls to the party of the constitutional status quo. And to meet it, the new DUP will have to reinvent itself all over again…

Addiction and personal responsibility

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BBC 2 last night aired a programme on addiction entitled Am I Normal, presented by clinical psychologist Tanya Byron. The documentary itself did not arrive at any startling conclusions, finding that addiction could be attributed to a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. What it did expose however, was the tendency to use the description ‘addiction’ as a means to absolve people of personal responsibility for a whole range of excessive, compulsive and damaging behaviours.

I have no particular medical knowledge and I would be reluctant to dismiss a gamut of research adduced to support the theory that behaviours as well as substances can be addictive. I am in no position to dispute these findings, which amount to brain scans proving that people seek to replicate experiences which release endorphins (if I have understood correctly), but there are various social implications which arise if we decide to take this broader approach to the definition of addiction.

In p…

Don't go down this route.

The Irish Independent carries an article by Emer O’Kelly which highlights how the Irish language is misused by ethno-nationalists and how this political misuse actually causes antagonism toward the language. The article focuses on the Republic of Ireland, but it is equally pertinent in Northern Ireland where the language is often considered as inextricably linked with republicanism. Of the nationally minded language zealots O’Kelly alleges,

“Its politically-minded proponents (as opposed to those who just speak Irish fluently and gracefully without using it as a weapon) refuse to accept the irrelevance of the language in most people's lives, and by their antagonism towards that majority view, have gone a long way to institutionalising negativity towards the language.”

O’Kelly highlights how the Republic’s commissioner for the Irish language has attacked appointments to the justice system where he questioned the appointee’s fluency in the Irish language. She argues that such campai…

Ignoring inconvenient war crimes

The wars in former Yugoslavia and in particular the insurgency and counter insurgency in Kosovo are understood largely through a narrative which has been imposed by NATO and proliferated by the US and other influential countries through the organs of the UN. This interpretation holds that Greater Serbian irredentism was overwhelmingly the aggressor in Yugoslavia causing Serbs to commit unspeakable war crimes against largely innocent peoples who simply wished to participate in Europe’s second ‘springtime of the nations’.

A great deal of time and energy has been expended attempting to bring Serb war criminals to justice, and rightly so. However, less resolute have been attempts to prosecute those from the various other belligerent sides in the wars, who were guilty of committing atrocities against Serbs. Recently former Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, was exonerated for crimes committed by the Kosovan Liberation Army of which he was one of the most feared leaders. Many wi…

Wretched DUPe whips up (sorry!) Irish cream row

The Newsletter has a great deal of fun with dairy product puns, as the paper charts the antics of North Down DUP councillor John Montgomery, who last week made an idiot of himself by objecting to Marks and Spencer describing some whipping cream made in Northern Ireland as ‘Irish whipping cream’. NDBC’s Corporate Committee then passed, by two votes, Montgomery’s proposal that they write to the company and complain.

These are the sort of antics that made the DUP infamous. They are also the type of antics which make right thinking unionists tear their hair out in despair. Instead of disclaiming the terms Ireland or Irish, unionists should instead be keen to clarify that they refer to the entire island and are just as applicable to Northern Ireland as they are to the Republic. Whipping cream from Northern Ireland is incontrovertibly ‘Irish whipping cream’ and all but the most wretched imbecile would acknowledge this without difficulty.

Of course, the more subtle points about geography …

It is Agreement's implementation which has exacerbated division

Over the past couple of days I have sifted through a quantity of the newsprint devoted to evaluating the impact of the Belfast Agreement 10 years on. Some accounts are thought provoking and some less so. Most acknowledge that Northern Ireland has benefited from the agreement as regards consolidating peace and facilitating a degree of economic recovery. The more thoughtful articles also contend that the way in which the agreement has been implemented and the peace process outworked, has actually compounded division in our society, as well as sending a deeply troubling message about the rewards which political violence can accrue.

Yesterday Lord Trimble, who played such a pivotal role in leading unionism to acceptance of the agreement, wrote in the Daily Telegraph about the work still to be done in order to create a truly peaceful society and criticised the Labour government’s repeated concessions to republicans in their desperation to implement the deal. Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s arti…

Lost Cosmonaut - entertaining but 'anti-tourism' premise fails to convince

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On a thread about travel literature on ‘The Dreaming Arm’, I mentioned yesterday that I was reading an unusual piece of travel writing by an author called Daniel Kalder. Kalder styles himself an “anti-tourist” and his trips focus on empty, dreary and forgotten places. He is derisive of the more conventional form of tourism which he sees as seeking a bogus authenticity in beauty and cultural exoticism. Whilst I understand his cynicism, I also wonder whether his exploration of “black holes” is simply another, equally doomed, attempt to seek out his own perception of ‘authentic’ or ‘real’.

The book which I have just finished is entitled ‘Lost Cosmonaut’ and it charts Kalder’s rather slapdash explorations of European Russia’s least celebrated ethnic republics. And his account is both entertaining and at times hilarious. Even within Russia these republics are obscure destinations. I consulted Lonely Planet’s guide to Russia every now and again during my reading and with the exceptio…

Why Franklin Graham rallies should worry us

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We do not need any great reminder of the influence of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity in Northern Ireland. After all our largest political party is rotten with those who believe they are being guided by God. In fact our outgoing First Minister, who is accustomed to preaching the most virulent form of Christianity, will shortly be replaced by Peter Robinson, who attends with his wife the revivalist evangelical Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, one of the largest church congregations in Europe. It is quite an indictment of the nature of the party when Robinson is considered to be on the godless secular wing of the DUP.

In case we needed another reminder of the influence of fundamentalist Christianity, 30,000 people (that is thirty thousand people) from our little province of 1,500,000, attended rallies featuring the evangelist Franklin Graham in Belfast’s Odyssey Arena over the weekend.

Of course, in the United Kingdom, people are entitled to freedom of conscience and free…

Victims' commission row exposes nature of carve-up

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The row over victims’ commission legislation which has broken out in the Northern Ireland Assembly lends particular pertinence to novelist Glenn Patterson’s sardonic piece, on Comment is Free today, accusing the twin nationalisms axis of “a consensus of crowing”. DUP / SF have of course achieved remarkably little since forming a government, despite their indulgence in constant self-congratulation. And in the unravelling of a deal which the carve-up were attempting to impose, we gain a startling insight into the high-handed fashion by which business is conducted by these two parties.

In January it was announced that rather than appoint one victims’ commissioner (which would have cost the public purse approximately £250,000 annually) a victims’ commission comprising 4 commissioners would instead be appointed (at the cost of approximately £750,000 per annum). The ludicrous pretence used to justify this decision being that the First and Deputy First Ministers had been so overwhelmed …

Even Americans can appreciate the irony when Shinners get sanctimonious

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Who says that American don't do irony? GamePolitics.com is a website of the Entertainment Consumers Association and covers topics “where politics and video games collide”.

A blog entry notes that Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly has provided his blessing to the Byron Review which deals with children’s use of the internet and violent video games.

“We can’t help but noting Kelly’s Wikipedia entry, which reports that he was found guilty of conspiracy in regard to a 1973 terrorist bombing in London which killed one person and injured 200 more. He subsquently escaped prison, shooting a guard in the process.

It’s good to see that he’s concerned about violent video games.”

The West's New Cold Warriors are the biggest handicap to Russian democracy

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At Burke’s Corner Brian Crowe has written lucidly on avoiding unreasonably provoking Russia. Brian explicates the real differences which inform western and Russian outlooks and implicitly acknowledges Russia’s right to follow a different course. In the view of Burke’s Corner what is required is respect for Russia’s history, interests and geography. This respect would necessarily entail a less aggressive and expansionist agenda within NATO.

Writing at Comment is Free, former Danish foreign minister Uffe Elleman-Jensen is less inclined to accord Russia respect. Rather he has chosen to interpret Russia’s scepticism about eastward NATO expansion as ‘bullying’ and clearly regrets the end of a period during which the Kremlin could safely be ignored on the world stage. When Uffe-Elleman laments that, “1989 was not the end of history. History threatens to return”, the substance of his grievance is actually that 1989 did not signal the end of Russian influence and did not herald a unipolar…

Groundless allegations quietly forgotten about

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An interesting post-script from a story from last year. When Estonia’s computer systems suffered attacks from hackers last April the government alleged that these attacks were launched from the Kremlin. A year later Estonia is braced for more attacks, but the allegations appear to have dissipated. Indeed it emerges that a 20 year old Estonian has been prosecuted for the attacks.

Estonia has a large, alienated Russian community who were incensed when a memorial to Soviet war dead was removed from central Tallinn.

'“Civic society” has attempted to write its own permanent and legally binding programme for government'

Newton Emerson takes an interesting approach to the Bill of Rights Forum, detecting in its proposals an attempt to impose the primacy of ‘civic society’ in government. Emerson argues that the various interest groups have not only ignored political representatives' input in the forum, and shaped the report’s proposals exclusively on their own terms, but they are also creating an executive role for the judiciary who must oversee all legislation to make sure that it conforms not only to the bill’s provisions, but also to its spirit.

The Forum established a working group to establish how judicially enforceable its suggestions might be. This group paid particular attention to ‘programmatic’ or ‘target’ rights. The report recommends that a ‘justiciability audit’ be carried out to continue this process. Yet more money required from the public purse. The argument so far is that economic and social legislation should be brought before a judge even if the objective of that legislation c…

Bertie is no Gorby

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Like Ian Paisley before him, Bertie Ahern’s announcement that he will resign next month has been greeted with a plethora of political obituaries. Paisley’s resignation was presaged by suggestions of improbity and to say that there was a whiff of fiscal impropriety hanging over Bertie Ahern would be quite an understatement. Nevertheless these retrospective articles have in the cases of both men, at times bordered on eulogy. Columnists and colleagues alike, once a resignation has been tendered, have instantly begun to downplay and ignore the unfolding scandals which caused them.

With Ahern, unlike Paisley, the praise has been unambiguous and almost universal. Fintan O’Toole’s article on Comment is Free has been completely atypical:

“Allegations that he had taken large sums of cash from private donors while he was minister for finance in 1993 and 1994? That he had failed to pay tax on at least some of that money, even though he was in charge of the tax system? That he had been brazenly…

Liverpool - Arsenal clash promises to go down to the wire

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Next Tuesday promises a tense quarter final in the Champions League after Liverpool and Arsenal’s first leg tie at the Emirates last night ended in stalemate. Rafa Benitez will be the happier manager as his team gained a draw and scored an away goal in a match which saw Arsenal enjoy more possession. However he will be mindful that in the previous round Arsene Wenger’s side travelled to Milan after a drawn first leg and dominated AC before running out comfortable two goal winners.

Anfield is a venue to inspire awe and trepidation amongst opposition players on big European nights and it is in this competition that Benitez’s success rate is at its most formidable. Liverpool will need to be more enterprising at home than they were at times last night. For large periods of the game they were happy to cede possession. And whilst this tactic paid dividends ultimately, there were moments when Arsenal broke through Liverpool’s resolute defence and might have given themselves the advantage…

When is a nationalist not a nationalist?

It is a rich irony that nationalist politicians do not believe that local politicians are capable of reaching a decision about the Bill of Rights. Both Sinn Fein and SDLP representatives have expressed a preference for this bill to be implemented by Westminster should the bill get to that stage.

Nationalists appealing to the British government to implement legislation in Northern Ireland may be ironic, but it is hardly surprising given the content of the report containing proposals for the Bill of Rights. The bill comprises sections which read like a nationalist wish list and any vote requiring cross community consensus, or even a simple majority, would be unlikely to be carried in the Assembly.

Rather than a bill which aims to protect the human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland, the proposals weld on to duplication of existing human rights law, measures which impose a duty to ignore the crimes of terrorists and a duty to fund from the public purse unnecessary services in minor…

Opposing NATO expansion is both understandable and correct

George Bush’s insistence ahead of the NATO summit in Bucharest that Georgia and Ukraine should be set on the road to full membership exposes the train of thought which is souring relations between Russia, America and other western states following the American line. The attitude is not simply that Russia’s foreign policy concerns are not legitimate. Effectively the way the US is acting denies that Russia has any legitimate foreign policy concerns at all.

To advance this military alliance, historically hostile to the USSR, in a way that will encircle Russia and penetrate deep into the country’s sphere of influence undermines Russia’s interests without a shadow of a doubt. If Russia were to enter a military alliance with Canada and Mexico would the US remain unconcerned because the Kremlin insisted the alliance was not a threat to the US? The US may maintain that expansion does not pose a threat to Russia, but ask the states which are poised to join why exactly they wish to join th…

Wiping the slate clean for terror criminals - more 'highlights' from the Bill of Rights proposals

Yesterday I hinted at the consequences the Bill of Rights proposals would have as regards those who were involved in crime as part of terrorist organisations throughout the troubles in Northern Ireland. The document defines victims in such a way as to encompass anyone who was endangered by their involvement in criminal acts. Thus someone who was blown up whilst attempting to plant a bomb in order to kill others, would be considered a victim under the remit of this proposed legislation.

It seems that in the detail of the proposals for a Bill of Rights lies a clause which would have more direct legal consequences.

“Public authorities may not unfairly discriminate, either directly or indirectly, against anyone on one or more grounds ……. Including …..irrelevant criminal record or conflict related conviction”. (PDF)

You will find the text under the Equality provisions of the report, under clause 2. This wording is opposed strongly by the UUP, DUP, Alliance Party NI and by the Catholic…