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Showing posts from February, 2010

A school of business for Belfast?

A guest post from Dr Phil Larkin

A CULTURE OF BUSINESS FOR THE NORTH: A SCHOOL OF BUSINESS FOR BELFAST?

Introduction
Working as I now am in the South of England, and making frequent trips down to London to visit friends and family, one thing that has struck me is the number of people from Northern Ireland who are living and working down here, either in a professional capacity or as proprietors of their own businesses (this is true also of people from other parts of Ireland, but for the purposes of this article I intend to concentrate only on those from the North). Very often, they are the graduates of top universities, and are highly intelligent, industrious and motivated individuals, keen to advance in their own professions, or build up their own businesses for the benefit of themselves and their families – in other words, the type of people one would encourage to come back and live in Northern Ireland, where they could work as potential wealth creators for the benefit of the whole of o…

A refresher for the IFA on what the laws are and how interpretation matters (not that I have very little faith or anything).

The IFA is going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland to argue that players with no connection to the Republic of Ireland, other than their passports, should not be allowed to play for the FAI football team, rather than Northern Ireland.

Now I’m sure that the Football Association has taken the finest legal advice, but in case Raymond Kennedy reads Three Thousand Versts, let me remind him what we actually need to be arguing, because it is the existing statutes that will be interpreted.

If players who choose to play for Northern Ireland, but hold ROI passports, can only do so because of inferred British nationality, then the IFA will lose. Players who hold dual nationality can choose an international team which represents either nationality.

If players can play for Northern Ireland by virtue of their Republic of Ireland nationality, in conjunction with other territorial requirements, then they are not entitled to play for the Republic if Ireland football team. They are s…

Double jobbing confusion as Ritchie prepares to stand in South Down.

Chris Brown’s Twitter feed reveals that Margaret Ritchie is scheduled to hold a press conference in Downpatrick this afternoon. We must assume that the new SDLP leader intends to announce her intention to stand for the South Down Westminster seat, vacated by Eddie McGrady, who is retiring.

Ritchie’s decision is puzzling, whichever way you look at it.

Previous leader, Mark Durkan, resigned his leadership because he rejects the notion that the SDLP can be led from anywhere other than the Northern Ireland Assembly. His party likes to stress its commitment to ‘this region’ and its institutions, as if they stand alone from the larger political framework of the United Kingdom.

Yet, should Ritchie win a Westminster seat, and refuse to stand down as an MLA, the SDLP’s commitment to ending double-jobbing will be questioned. After all, Alasdair McDonnell, the MP for South Belfast, has expressed his reluctance to give up one of his posts.

Like the SDLP, the DUP made some initial noises abou…

Presbyterian Mutual Society. A solution?

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On the Cobden Centre website Toby Baxendale explains a piece of high economics which he claims offers a pain free method to refund Presbyterian Mutual customers. The society’s investors are considered the only private savers in the UK to have lost deposits due to the banking crisis.

The article forms a wider critique of institutions which invest savers’ money. By a process of financial alchemy banks, building societies and other organisations, conjure credit from the ether, which increases the money supply and leaves the depositor reliant on an illusion that his / her money is being kept safe until he / she needs it.

Baxendale wants to see legislation which provides savers with the tools to dictate how much risk a bank or building society can take with their money. It is a scheme grounded in conservative principles of sound money and it offers a useful corrective to the idea that conservative economics are in thrall to financial wizardry, or the banking system.

Savers, and poli…

The selection section

The BBC reports that nine Conservative and Unionist candidates have been agreed, which represents a brisk turnaround. These are the less tricky constituencies, with South Antrim and Fermanagh South Tyrone conspicuous by their absence. Still, good to see progress being made.

Strangford, as expected will be contested by Mike Nesbitt, who has hit the ground running with his campaign. He features in a Guardian interview with fellow candidate, Trevor Ringland, who will stand in East Belfast.

Daphne Trimble can now go about the task of unseating wee Jeffrey in Lagan Valley. She is joined by Sandra Overend in Mid Ulster, Ross Hussey in West Tyrone, Bill Manwaring in West Belfast, Danny Kennedy in Newry Armagh and John McCallister in South Down.

Upper Bann will be contested by Harry Hamilton, the lead singer of Queen tribute band ‘Flash Harry’. He’ll save every one of us etc etc.

A Tory vs. Labour dust up in North Down? Yes please!

Two Ulster Unionists have swiftly stepped forward in order to fill the breach left by Sylvia Hermon. Bill McKendry and Johnny Andrews are confirmed supporters of the Conservative link-up and strong proponents of pan-UK unionism.

North Down, which has proved UCUNF’s problem seat thus far, now has a strong panel of possible candidates vying for selection. It’s just a pity it took so long.

Meanwhile members of the Labour party in Northern Ireland are keen to secure Hermon’s services. The honourable thing for the North Down MP to do is to stand under the Labour banner.

It would be an exciting development if the two big British parties were to go head to head in a Northern Ireland constituency. That is the type of politics which we must move towards.

Better late than never. Or 17 out of 18 ain't (too) bad!

The UUP has released a list of 17 nominees seeking to become UCUNF candidates for the forthcoming election. Of course Northern Ireland contains 18 Westminster constituencies, however, Sylvia Hermon, MP for North Down, is refusing to stand for the Conservatives and Unionists.

Clearly she has excluded herself from the race. Despite ‘ongoing talks’ the only credible courses of action are, either to put forward an alternative UUP nominee, or simply to leave the way free for the Tory selection, Ian Parsley. After all, the Ulster Unionist, Mike Nesbitt, will be unopposed in Strangford.

The final list is, to be honest, a fairly mixed bunch. A few words about each constituency.

North Antrim: The task of taking on Allister and a Paisley is unenviable by any standards. Rodney McCune found himself unable to defend the UUP’s vote in 2005. Robin Swann’s record in elections doesn’t command a great deal of confidence. He is expected to be the candidate and he could well find himself crushed b…

Irish FA must boycott Celtic and Setanta Cups until FAI stop poaching underage players

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It was difficult to envisage Northern Ireland’s friendly with Albania generating any type of controversy before Nigel Worthington announced his squad. Now the eligibility issue has once again been sparked by Shane Duffy’s decision to reject inclusion in the panel.

The Everton youngster advanced through the various IFA underage teams, played for the B team and even featured as a substitute in a friendly against Italy, last year. That game seems to have served as a bone of contention. The 18 year old warmed up, but did not enter the fray.

There is still a degree of ambiguity about FIFA’s rules. But Sepp Blatter appeared, last March, to confirm that segregated Irish football teams had the governing body’s go-ahead. Whether the statutes are being applied consistently has not been established beyond doubt.

Duffy is, in any case, a different case to Darron Gibson, or to Mark Wilson, another Northern Irish player selected in the latest Republic squad. He has a parent and a grandparent…

Gerry the moral gymnast

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Developing yesterday's post, and focussing solely on Gerry Adams, I write about a moral vacuum, in today's Belfast Telegraph.

The decision to schedule the documentary on Sunday proved unerring. This week the Old Bailey bomber, Dolours Price, is scheduled to present vital information to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR).

She alleges that Adams was the officer commanding the Provisional IRA in Belfast, directly responsible for setting up two secret cells, 'the Unknowns', tasked with 'disappearing' suspected informers.

These allegations implicate Adams in the killing of Jean McConville, who was abducted, shot and buried on a beach in Co Louth, during the 1970s. The murder is a notorious example of IRA brutality and fanaticism.

During The Bible, Adams talked about forgiveness and said that, after three decades of 'war', "all of us have plenty to forgive and be forgiven for".

Perhaps. But anyone with a shred of decen…

Corporate responsibility, Dawn and Gerry.

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Yesterday evening the BBC aired the most entertaining Winter Olympic event to date. Ski cross features four downhill skiers, hurtling down a snowboard track, together. They hurdle jumps, perform hair-raising manoeuvres in order to overtake opponents and the inevitable tangled skis cause all manner of spectacular crashes. It was the second most compelling sport on TV last night, the first being Gerry Adams’ moral contortionism on Channel 4.

The Sinn Féin President’s meditations on ‘the Jesus story’ were predictably noxious. Predicated on a monstrous blend of moral relativism and abstraction, Adams’ gospel of the Troubles implies that the killers were no more culpable than the victims. And at the bottom of all our problems, original sin, exclusive to the English, to ‘the Brits‘, absolving Gerry and his comrades of any responsibility.

“Stupid operation” rather than barbarous mass murder, “political activist” rather than terror chief. Adams’ Orwellian lexicon is littered with euphem…

Are you still here?

The Conservatives and Unionists candidate selection procedure has finally started to deliver some results. After months of prevarication the UUP has begun to put bums on seats and, although I understand another deadline has elapsed, an end to the process is in sight.

The main spanner in the works remains Sylvia Hermon. Clearly the UUP is still attempting to broker some type of fudge in order to let her stand, without accepting the UCUNF banner.

After a year of sweeping the 'Lady' under the carpet, the party doesn't appear to have a bin bag into which she will fit. It is a preposterous situation.

Hermon has repeatedly attacked the Conservative arrangement. Even if she were to agree to take the Tory whip at Westminster, her inclusion as a candidate would undermine the deal. And the very fact that discussions are still ongoing already undermines Sir Reg Empey's status as party leader.

The equation is very simple. The Conservatives and Unionists have vowed to field e…

The gentleman thief.

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Received wisdom in Britain and America holds that Mikhail Khodorkovksy is a ’political prisoner‘. During one instalment of the television series ’Jonathan Dimbleby’s Russia’ the presenter drove past a gaol in which the oligarch has been imprisoned and spoke in hushed tones about the dissident opinions which apparently resulted in Khodorkovsky’s incarceration.

Whereas other Russian businessmen who made their fortunes after the Soviet Union’s collapse were often brash, flashy and obnoxious, Khodorkovsky struck an unostentatious figure. With his modest roll neck sweaters and impeccable manners he is the antithesis of the cliché of the ‘New Russian‘.

However the former owner of Yukos built up his wealth by the same methods as Berezovsky, Abramovich and the rest. He participated in the same smash and grab which witnessed state enterprises ending up the hands of a tiny group of opportunists for a fraction of their market value. And he built up a private security service which has be…

Old prejudices re-emerge on left as 'Irish Unity' conference rolls into London.

Sinn Fein’s ‘Irish Unity’ world tour has reached our nation’s capital: London. A venue which has more relevance to Northern Ireland politics than the United States of America, though hardly replete with the people who must be persuaded of the merits of a united Ireland, if it is to ever to become a reality.

Although the conference is as irrelevant as ever, it does offer a neat guide to Republicans’ fellow travellers in the United Kingdom. Despite fitful interest in politics in Northern Ireland, the Guardian has decided to offer blanket coverage.

Is the newspaper an unofficial sponsor of this event? I see that regular contributor, husband of the paper’s deputy editor and former republican prisoner, Ronan Bennett, is taking part. Certainly it’s unusual to find so much comment about Northern Ireland appearing at CIF all at once.

Martin McGuinness rolls out his stock platitudes, Margaret Ward, a regular Sinn Féin mouthpiece, does her bit and Paul Bew’s dissenting opinion is adorned wit…

A House Divided.

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Asked to offer a positive summing up, at the Belfast Salon debate at Belfast Exposed on Tuesday night, I was stuck for something to say. Another contributor, professor of sociology at Queen’s University, Liam O’Dowd commented, with some justification, that my response was rather fatalistic. On reflection, things are not as grim as my conclusion suggested.

Yes, my attitude to the current carve-up at Stormont IS fatalistic. That is different from the type of fatalism, typical of some unionists, which O’Dowd detected. I am not infected by the determinist notion that ’Ulster is sold’, that a united Ireland is inevitable or that Northern Ireland’s future is grim.

On the contrary, I believe that people here will continue to lead productive lives and get on with the project of restoring some form of normality to the province, despite our politicians.

Jason Walsh offered a much better summation, arguing that the current hegemony of the DUP and Sinn Féin is unsustainable, because it doesn’t…

DUP stooge going out gracelessly

The foremost Conservative critic of UCUNF (sorry Jeff) has been Sir Nicholas Winterton who is rather more enamoured with the DUP. The MP for Macclesfield is renowned as one of the Tories’ few remaining unreformed neanderthals who will leave politics after the next election with the toe of David Cameron’s shoe in his backside.

True to form he’s not going quietly. Winterton previously confounded popular opinion, and good sense, by insisting that MPs should not have to declare their interests at Westminster. Now he’s whinging about travel expenses because he doesn’t want to sit in a standard railway carriage (as opposed to first class) with a “totally different type of people”.

The interview with Stephen Nolan is half way down the page, on the right, and it is spectacularly bad!

Amidst bullying and threats ICJ has the opportunity to deal a blow to unilateralism.

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With the International Court of Justice set to rule on the autonomous province’s unilateral declaration of independence, pressure on Serbia to drop its legal challenge from the so-called ’Quint’ has become intense. At Comment is Free, Bancroft argues that Spain’s plan for fresh negotiations offers a reasonable compromise which high handed behaviour from Britain, Germany, France, Italy and the US is designed to prevent. In addition he highlights threats from Kosovo Albanian separatists to foment further secessionism in southern Serbia.

From the instant Belgrade decided to test Nato’s Kosovar protectorate against the precepts of international law, it has been subject to bullying from the region’s sponsors. The launching point for the CIF article is a ’strongly worded communiqué’ from the Quint which accuses Serbia of “aggressive rhetoric” and “adventurous actions”. As Bancroft observes, the Serbs have vowed to oppose Kosovo Albanian independence by exclusively “peaceful, diplomatic…

Nesbitt selection shows imagination.

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Bobballs read the runes more than a week ago. The UUP has made a good positive choice for the Strangford constituency, selecting former television presenter, and current victims’ commissioner, Mike Nesbitt.

I’m sure there will be a few noses put out of joint by this decision. Mr Nesbitt’s entry into the race is rather late. But he does represent the type of articulate, high-profile candidate which the Conservatives and Unionists should aspire to field.

If politics are to remain relevant to voters, if they are to give the appearance of openness, then there has to be a route to the top which rewards excellent communication skills and achievement in other fields.

Naturally people who faithfully attend party meetings and work their way up through local councils don’t like to be leapfrogged. However, candidature for high office cannot be viewed as an award for time-serving. The right candidate is the best candidate and one who stands a chance of winning the seat.

Whilst Nesbitt’s …

Out of touch. Much?

What world is Nelson McCausland living in? He thinks that, in the midst of a recession, wasting £25 million on minority language broadcast funds represents "good news for unionists"! Ulster Scots is getting £5 million you see.

What percentage of pro-Union voters have even a semblance of interest in this so-called language, accepted by most leading authorities as a dialect of Scots, which for political reasons has been pursued as a rival to Irish?

Here are a few reactions from a non-politics website frequented by sports fans in Northern Ireland.

I heard a dupe-r on earlier saying that the money for Ulster Scots was good for unionism...can anyone explain why?

Selfish f**king hateful self serving scum.
They've closed a ward in the dementia unit at Holywell hospital due to lack of funds.

What a scandalous waste of money at any time never mind in the middle of a recession. Disgraceful

Absolute disgrace how they can justify this is beyond me

How exactly are they going to spend…

Travel the Trans Siberian. On Google.

A locomotive trundles out of Yaroslavsky Station, Moscow. This is the Trans Siberian and it’s bound for Vladivostok, more than 9,000 kilometres distant.

It is a journey which will take more than 150 hours to complete. And now you can take the trip without a Russia Visa, without negotiating Komsomolskaya Square, its dubious cast of characters or its pervading smell of urea and without the risk of sharing your carriage with a pair of alcoholic migrant workers.

Google have introduced the ‘virtual’ Trans Siberian, courtesy of Google maps and an awful lot of Youtube footage. Listen to Gogol’s Dead Souls, stare out the window and enjoy. But whatever happens, you’re not going to be able to get off at any of the stations and you‘ll have to visit your own kettle, rather than the communal samovar, for a cup of tea.

My advice is definitely to jump to the interesting bits.

Democracy for the rich and trustworthy. More reaction to Ukraine's election.

I’d overlooked this gem from the Moscow Times, but MT highlighted it on Facebook. It is a piece by regular contributor, and host of a political talk show on liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy, Yulia Latynina.

The ironic thing is that, although columnists like Tim Garton Ash would never couch their own pieces in such terms, you get the feeling that the sentiment is not entirely dissimilar as regards the Ukraine election. The odd limp acknowledgment of the democratic process has generally accompanied deeply condescending analyses of the electorate’s choice.

Now, full disclosure here, living in Northern Ireland, with a cohort of ex terrorists in government alongside the Free P Taliban, only the insensate have never questioned whether democracy always produces an ideal outcome.

In the most trying circumstances we remind ourselves of Churchill’s maxim, that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others which have been tried from time to time. And we conside…

Shameful, ill-informed, badly researched, ignorant garbage from The Times.

Hot on the heals of Shaun Woodward’s contention that the British government should be neutral on Northern Ireland’s place within the Union comes an extraordinarily sloppy article in The Times. It is actually quite staggering that this has appeared in a nominally pro-Cameron newspaper.

The broad theme is that the Conservatives are set to hand their Ulster Unionist partners a ‘stranglehold of power’ (I kid you not). The piece is manifestly ludicrous and rests on the type of insidious logic which has consigned British people in Northern Ireland to the status of second class citizens politically.

It’s actually worth deconstructing some of the main points, just to demonstrate how utterly preposterous this so-called piece of journalism is. Clearly Sam Coates has been fed a line by Labour spindoctors and has swallowed it hook line and sinker.

“The Conservatives were accused last night of threatening the Northern Ireland peace process by backing changes that could give the Ulster Unionists…

Northern Ireland out of Euro 2012?

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Members of the Green and White Army are compelled to put on a brave face as regards the Euro 2012 draw, but Mark Watson seems to have weighed our chances pretty accurately on his spoof football blog. Obviously the comedian has spent many hours studying bumbling IFA chief Ray Kennedy, because he captures his idiom with unerring accuracy.

‘Nigel’s done a tremendous job of reviving us as a serious contender,’ Kennedy told reporters, ‘which is why we’re… hang on. Sssh. Italy. Bollocks. No, as I was saying, there’s a real feeling of optimism at the moment, which… Slovenia. Ah, bollocks. But even so, we’re very hopeful that… hang on. Serbia. Are they one of the ones that are a bit of a joke, like Azerbaijan, or one of the really good ones that used to be Yugoslavia?’ After reporters supplied the answer, Kennedy added: ‘ah, bollocks. Bollocks to all that, then.’

Cameron has the measure of the SNP, but he will still have to handle with care.

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Speaking before the Conservatives' Scottish conference David Cameron has laid into the SNP, claiming that Alex Salmond lives in a 'perpetual episode of Braveheart'. The Tory leader also affirmed his determination to avoid boosting the argument for independence.

"If Alex Salmond thinks a Conservative government is going to get in and run the United Kingdom in such a way that makes the argument for independence stronger he has another thing coming."

All good stuff, although I hope that Cameron really has the measure of Scotland's First Minister and is mindful of the accusations of anti-Scottishness which each Conservative decision, however innocuous, is bound to provoke. The cultural kitsch so beloved of Salmond is surprisingly popular in some circles.

As I remarked below:

[In Scotland] nationalism has attempted to weld itself on to a vibrant cultural patriotism. Its response to the instrumental arguments of unionism is that they are unpatriotic, they ‘do down’ S…

Annoyance as Ukraine shows unwilling to be the rope in an endless tug of war.

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The OSCE has hailed Ukraine's presidential election as “open, transparent and honest”, yet Yulia Tymoshenko claims she will never accept Viktor Yanukkovych’s victory.

This is the scion of democracy whose defeat is causing wailing and gnashing of teeth in some newspapers.

The truth is that the coverage of recent Ukrainian politics has been exposed by Yanukovych’s victory. The zero sum game between western liberalisers and neo-Soviet bureaucrats, consistently portrayed in the papers, was misleading.

Ukraine’s ‘Orange Revolution’ was not a defiant repudiation of Russia and an embrace of the so-called west. Voters wished to see an end to corruption in politics and economic stability. Viktor Yushchenko resoundingly failed to deliver and the electorate has chosen to try another approach.

The idea that Yanukovych vs. Tymoshenko represented Russia vs. The West was equally misleading. Vladimir Putin is said to enjoy a positive relationship with Tymoshenko and regards Yanukovych with so…

Uneasy Alliance?

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What precisely is going on within the Alliance party? During the Hillsborough negotiations David Ford hit out at anyone who wouldn’t prostrate themselves before the policing and justice juggernaut.

The expectation seemed to be that all parties were duty bound to accept, sight unseen, any deal which the DUP and Sinn Féin might strike, in case the glorious non-sectarian prospect of an Alliance Minister of Justice became imperilled.

A few days later and David Ford is rather less adamant.

In fact, at a meeting of party leaders this morning I believe that it has become apparent that a vote of his party council is now being sought, in order to endorse any acceptance of the justice portfolio. Naomi Long first mooted the possibility on Good Morning Ulster and it appears that Ford has succumbed to pressure. We can surmise that Long is unhappy with the prospect of her party effectively approving the programme for government unto which the new justice measures will be grafted.

If the East Be…

Prime minister should leave the goalposts where they are.

Now online! In today's Belfast Telegraph I argue against Gordon Brown's proposed electoral reform.

Today MPs decide whether to hold a referendum on the introduction of ‘Alternative Vote’ for Westminster elections. It is part of Gordon Brown’s plan to rehabilitate the damaged reputation of Britain‘s politics. It is also a spectacularly bad idea.

How can an electoral system which affords less clarity, demands more fudge and disconnects lines of accountability between the electorate and its government help to revive public confidence in tarnished institutions and discredited politicians?

Of course we are accustomed to Alternative Vote in Northern Ireland because it is used in council and assembly by-elections. Like AV’s close relative, Proportional Representation, it is popular amongst politics aficionados, who relish its complexity, its labyrinthine twists and the strange vocabulary of ’surpluses’ and ’quotas’.

However, if the prime minister really wants to tackle the ’c…

Northern Ireland draws the short straw

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The best that can be said about Northern Ireland's draw for the European Championship qualifiers is that it will make for some interesting trips. World Champions Italy, Serbia, Slovenia, Estonia and the Faroe Islands. It doesn't get much tougher.

Serbia finished above France on their way to World Cup qualification and Slovenia we know all about, having finished below them in our group. Even the Faroe Islands, managed by former Republic boss Brian Kerr, are tricky opponents. I can almost see the headlines already.

O'Neill is preparing his tank again, but I hope that Northern Ireland fans will get a warm welcome in Belgrade. Estonia is an accessible trip and I always enjoy travelling in Italy. Perhaps the Faroes is the one to miss this time?

The low ideological price tag on British citizenship

Later this month Belfast Salon hosts a debate at the Belfast Exposed Gallery asking whether devolution offers a peaceful future in Northern Ireland, or whether it fosters 'peace at any price'. I will be contributing alongside Forth editor, Jason Walsh.

A series of taster articles will appear at Forth Magazine before the event.

I kick off with a piece about Irish unionism, the nature of British citizenship and the conditions Alex Salmond is attempting to put on Scottishness.

FOR NATIONALISTS it is often a working assumption that Irish unionism is defined and limited by reaction. Its genesis was simply a retort to Ireland’s burgeoning consciousness as a nation, from the 1790s on. And today, in the third century of its existence, unionism is understood to remain primarily a response to, and a denial of, legitimate national aspirations.

John Bew has written a fascinating little book, the Glory Of Being Britons, challenging these foundational myths about unionism. He describes …

Spin above substance. Northern Ireland is sold a pup.

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So that’s it?

After a fortnight of work the so-called ‘Hillsborough Agreement’ (remember how great the last one was?) comprises twenty one pages and contains enough holes to sustain any number of mini-crises. We can only assume that this tacked together deal is underpinned by a network of behind the scenes arrangements between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

Which is precisely the reason why this type of set-piece has proved necessary in the first place.

With the UUP sitting out this morning’s proceedings, because the party had no input in the negotiations in the first place, the requirement of a functional executive is key to securing all-party support.

Ulster Unionist anxieties on this score will hardly be offset by a commitment to set-up a working group on ‘Improving Executive Function and Delivery’. Rather than undertaking to establish genuine coalition at Stormont, the DUP and Sinn Féin are handing the smaller parties an opportunity to talk about it.

And the working group and timetabl…

Dominic Grieve reiterates pledge to include provisions for Northern Ireland in UK Bill of Rights. And who's that he's quoting?

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The Shadow Justice Secretary is delivering a speech on human rights this evening in Belfast. He will criticise the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, pointing out that it has gone well beyond its remit. He will also repeat the Conservative party's commitment to include provisions, specific to Northern Ireland, within the framework of a new UK bill.

And, you'll forgive the conceit, but I'm bound to point out that Mr Grieve has chosen to embellish his speech with a quotation from a leading authority on the topic. Or not.

The NIHRC report, as has been widely acknowledged went a long way outside the remit that had been laid down for it.

“Although I recognise its good intent, it produced a blueprint for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland which if implemented would represent a fundamental constitutional change. So widespread a vision of justiciable rights is contained within it that it is difficult to disagree with the verdict of Owen Polley writing in the Guardian, a…

Gordon's Alternative Vote scheme is a cynical ruse.

Gordon Brown’s plan to introduce Alternative Vote is a cynical exercise. It is also foolhardy and it is likely to alter profoundly Britain’s constitutional landscape, despite its conception as a half-hearted sop to a public disillusioned with politics.

There are three reasons why the prime minister is considering this type of electoral reform and none of them make it a good idea.

First, he wishes to be seen to be doing something to address a so-called ’crisis of legitimacy’ which has afflicted politics since the expenses scandal. There is a flourishing perception that MPs are not sufficiently accountable to the people they represent and that that is the source of corruption at Westminster. Alternative Vote gives the appearance of accountability. After all, we get to make more than one mark on the ballot paper.

Second, whatever the outcome of the forthcoming general election, Labour is destined for a period in opposition. First past the post is believed to work to the advantage …