Can Northern Ireland Change?

‘You have to have hope,’ my friend always tells me. Usually this is after I’ve been outlining the likely facts of my children’s future, on account of our great leaders trashing the planet and laughing all the way to the bank. ‘You can’t live like that though, you have to have hope,’ she says. I like Frankie Boyle‘s take on hope. If you see a leopard, hope is not a good evolutionary strategy. There’s no point in saying, ‘Is that …

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To amnesty or not to amnesty? The UK government is squeezed from both directions, as up to 200 former soldiers face Troubles investigations

A wholly predictable row is brewing over government plans to exempt the Northern Ireland Troubles from amnesty plans for soldiers being drawn up by the Ministry of Defence. If they weren’t exempted a different row would be as inevitable.  Guardian correspondents Owen Boycott and Ben Quinn report that up to 200 former soldiers are being investigated for alleged criminal acts in Northern Ireland, following the single prosecution announced over Bloody Sunday. They also claim that the NIO and the MoD …

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Face the fact: creating an effective political response to Lyra McKee’s murder is no easy task

It’s the saddest of ironies that Lyra McKee  was promoting and living a lifestyle that was the powerful counter to  the old  siren calls of nineteenth century militant nationalism and imperialism –   just the thing to drag  bored and disaffected youth out of its rut. Her  grieving partner Sara Canning and  the rest of her family will take comfort from the fact  that Lyra will live on in her work and  the example of her life. As an insightful and …

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The Unity Genie is Out of the Bottle: What do Unionism and Southern Parties do Next?

As we fast approach the local council elections, it’s important to assess what the results might tell us about the future of Stormont and power-sharing as a whole. Will the council elections show a growth in the Nationalist vote? And/or will we finally see a breakthrough in middle ground voters, against the vacuum and groundhog day of our local politics? I do not need to inform all where we’re at and why. We all have slightly different takes on this, …

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Misha Glenny, famed expert on lethal clashes of identity in Europe, discovers his own roots – in Newry

Misha Glenny I knew Michael “Misha” Glenny  as a young BBC correspondent  reporting the tragedies of the  disintegration of Yugoslavia  from the  eighties  and more recently as the author of the book and executive producer of the smash hit TV thriller series McMafia, about the spread of global crime into politics and  the world of  billionaire finance.  Misha’s interest is in part hereditary. His father Michael senior was a student of Eastern Europe and a famed translator who legend has …

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One prosecution for Bloody Sunday. A moment to pause and reflect

Only one former paratrooper is to be charged in connection with the killings of civil rights demonstrators in Northern Ireland on Bloody Sunday in January 1972. The decision was announced by Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service after relatives of the 13 men, who died on one of the darkest days of the Troubles, had marched together through the streets of Derry where the victims fell The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Stephen Herron, said: “It has been concluded …

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The plain unvarnished truth by Fionola Meredith

She cuts through the dream world  of imaginary politics…  I have one question for people in the Republic who said they want a referendum on Irish unity: Are you mad? There is another side – if you’re passing through… https://discovernorthernireland.com/about-northern-ireland/destinations/causeway/causeway-coastal-route/causeway-coastal-route-destinations/?s=D423088611DB11AB8D4C3772F5F0C533A2F20C25   Brian WalkerFormer BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research …

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Even though Karen Bradley is an embarrassment who should quit but won’t, there is an easier way than Bloody Sunday prosecutions

It is quite an event when a minister has to return to the despatch box of the Commons to correct a misstatement – in this case one so elementary it beggars belief, although in tune with her basic ignorance of local politics. Speaking in the House of Commons, Mrs Bradley was responding to a question from DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly about legacy issues. “Over 90% of the killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorists, every single …

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Bloody Sunday prosecutions would ” turn the stomachs of the British people” – Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

Full story from the Sunday Times. Would  a retrospective amnesty be legal? Army veterans will be protected from prosecution for alleged historic abuses under plans to introduce a 10-year limit on new cases, The Sunday Times can reveal. Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, is expected to bring forward the proposed legislation in this year’s Queen’s speech after growing pressure on the government to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The disclosure comes amid claims that four army …

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Amnesty looks further away than ever if Bloody Sunday comes to trial. Despite the inevitable political rows, even this weakest of governments will not be able to duck further action

Suddenly, over historic cases stretching back  almost half a century, legal developments   are emerging that inject a new – and to me unexpected – momentum into dealing with the past. The hard pressed PSNI,  so eager to hand over its role in historic cases to  the proposed Historic Investigations Unit, has done its controversial  job over Bloody Sunday and John Downey. Inevitably in Northern Ireland, reaction to this fresh impetus could overtake Brexit as a divisive issue – at least …

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The prospect of prosecutions over the Stakeknife record underlines the need to enact a Legacy Bill

Wisely, the usual knee jerk reactions from politicians and commentators  committed to one side or another in historical cases have  been held back after the sudden announcement from Jon Boutcher the chief constable of Bedfordshire running Operation Kenova that he has gathered evidence  to prosecution standard. It remains  to be assessed by the Northern Ireland director of public prosecutions. The prospect of state servants being charged over the record of Stakeknife cuts through the deadlocked debate on dealing with the …

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Sustaining hope for peace: Global Conflict 2018 #GFA20

Sustaining hope for peace: Global Conflict 2018 #GFA20 by Allan LEONARD 23 August 2018 In partnership with the University of Chicago and its Pearson Institute, Queen’s University Belfast hosted a two-day conference, “Global Conflict: The Human Impact”. This report recounts the first day’s events, which focussed on sharing learning from the peace processes in Northern Ireland and Colombia. Professor Ian Greer, recently installed Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s, welcomed delegates with some explanatory remarks about the partnership between the two universities. This …

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I don’t want a shared future, I want a shared now

You know summer is on the way in Northern Ireland, when we get 3 straight days of sunshine, prompting an outbreak of ‘taps aff’. Anyone unfortunate to witness the sight of some local men wandering the streets half naked, knows that a row about flags is just around the corner. A few weeks ago, just off the Ravenhill Road, a part of the world I call my home, four loyalist paramilitary flags went up on lampposts overnight, near a shared …

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Unionism’s “inclusiveness” must have passed me by

Born in November 1998, I am technically a “post-Troubles” baby, a child of the “new Northern Ireland”. I have never known the routine bomb scares and checkpoints that my parents knew; unlike their generation, I am unaccustomed to seeing a soldier in uniform. I became aware of politics around the beginning of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness’ time as first ministers; those halcyon days. Still somewhat on a high from the Chuckle Brothers era of Paisley/McGuinness, there was an air …

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Avoid a battle of the narratives. The Chief Constable and Police Ombudsman appeal for agreement emerging from the proposed legacy process

Eamonn Mallie has published  transcripts of Chief Constable George Hamilton and Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire addressing a gathering at Queen’s University on the approaches they hope will be  adopted on the consultation just launched on dealing with the past. I shamelessly share them with warm thanks to Eamonn. Both  men plead for responders not to adopt a polarised or polemical position right from the start and take the broader view that works for reconciliation. They also call for a …

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On the legacy deadlock, equality before the law for the security forces is not moral equivalence with the IRA

Ruth Dudley Edwards has just commended “Legacy: What To Do About The Past in Northern Ireland”, a short book by Unionist councillor and redoubtable human right campaigner Jeff  Dudgeon,  edited mainly from the contributions at the conference on legacy legislation he organised in Belfast on March 3rd. As you’d expect, Ruth shares the passionately held view that the UK’s so far unseen draft Legacy Bill is based on a flawed approach developed by the traditional justice academic lawyers who to …

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I voted for peace, and all I got was this lousy culture war

I found this week’s 20 year commemoration of the Agreement quite surreal. Maybe it was because I was sick at home in my pyjamas and missed out on the bling of the big events. No basking in the glow of disgraced elderly politicians for me… Instead, I was more struck by how sad and stuck everything feels right now. It feels like we voted for peace, but all we got was this lousy culture war. By culture war, in this …

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There is nothing republican about tying identity to a tricolour

“This decision will put back community relations…people are telling me their culture is being eroded, people are angry!” While this quote is reminiscent of the infamous flag protests of 2012, the main result of which being the increase in Jamie Bryson’s Twitter followers, the above comments are actually only weeks old and refer to a Councillor’s response to rumours that a Strabane St. Patrick’s Day parade would not allow the Irish tricolour to be flown. While Derry and Strabane District …

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