Showing posts from June, 2017

Demonising the DUP risks demonising NI voters

There are many less than admirable aspects to Northern Ireland’s largest political party - the DUP - and I’ve written about them extensively.  The Democratic Unionists have a history of sectarian intolerance and rabble-rousing populism.  
Over the years, they’ve changed dramatically, attracting support from mainstream unionists and establishing a wider membership profile, but they’ve never quite ditched their hardline, fundamentalist Protestant image.  
The DUP’s social attitudes are often strikingly traditional, its ideas about Britishness can seem foreign to people in the rest of the UK and it is sometimes criticised justifiably for an ambivalent, contradictory attitude to loyalist paramilitary groups..  
Therefore there are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticise the Tories’ decision to seek Democratic Unionist support to form a government, without resorting to the deluge of nonsense that some journalists, commentators and Tweeters directed at the party when news of a possible ‘conf…

UK foreign policy did contribute to terror, but not in the way Corbyn implies.

After both the Manchester and London Bridge terror attacks, party political campaigning was briefly suspended.  However, Islamic terrorism has inevitably become an important issue in this general election and, rather ironically, Jeremy Corbyn is on the offensive, criticising Theresa May and the Conservatives for imposing cuts on the police that put public safety at risk.
This is not a subject on which the Labour leader has much credibility.  Not only has he a long record of sympathising with terrorist causes, he and his associates have also actively opposed many of the security agencies that are charged with keeping us safe.  The blogger Guido Fawkes points out that, just three years ago, Corbyn defended the idea that young British people who had fought for ISIS in Syria should be allowed to return to the UK without “legal obstacles”.
The Labour leader also argues that British foreign policy, including military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, has helped fuel Islamist …

Focus of Northern Ireland politics moving back to Westminster

This article appeared first in the News Letter's General election supplement (1 June 2017).
Since devolution, and particularly after the restoration of the Assembly in 2007, the centre of gravity in Northern Ireland politics moved steadily away from Westminster back to Stormont.  The tendency was compounded after pressure to stop ‘double jobbing’ eventually put an end to dual mandates, so political heavyweights and party leaders could no longer juggle their responsibilities in both legislatures. For a number of years, the most high profile political personalities in the media have operated from Stormont, while some MPs became relatively anonymous.  There were even occasional suggestions that difficult characters or party rivals were sent to the House of Commons to keep them out of mischief. With this General Election, there is a very good chance that the political balance will shift back toward Westminster.  Many of the most urgent challenges Northern Ireland faces currently have a U…