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Author Topic: Northern Ireland General Discussion  (Read 17665 times)
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« on: December 07, 2007, 08:14:27 am »
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Decided to start one for NI to see how it goes. A couple of recent stories of interest to start with...

Earlier this week, Gerry McHugh MLA (Fermanagh-South Tyrone) resigned from Sinn Féin. He cited problems with the controlling nature of the leadership and his concerns as to the direction of Sinn Féin post the St. Andrew's Agreement. The leakage of members from SF because of policing issues and St. Andrew's seemed to have stopped some time ago; McHugh is the first MLA since the election to do so (all the previous one's having lost their seats). His issues with the leadership seem to be the more pressing concern, though it's almost certainly his lack of personal political progress which distresses him moreso than anything else.

McHugh is now an Independent and claims he will seek to defend his seat in the next Assembly elections. If the election was held tomorrow, McHugh would have next to no chance of retaining the seat, but if things become rocky for the DUP & SF led administration...who knows?

New Composition of the Assembly
Democratic Unionist Party36
Sinn Féin27(-1)
Ulster Unionist Party18
Social Democratic and Labour Party16
Alliance Party7
Independents2(+1)
Green Party1
Progressive Unionist Party1




Potentially a more serious party dissident is Jim Allister MEP (Ind; N. Ireland). Allister was a hardline DUP member but left after the party went into coalition with Sinn Féin. Today, he has announced the establishment of a new anti-St. Andrew's Unionist group, the "Traditional Unionist Voice". Like SF, the DUP lost a series of members earlier in the year (mostly at Councillor level). There's no doubt that there is a section of the Unionist community that will be at least sympathetic to Allister's new group. Whether or not they can be electorally successful is another matter. Only time will tell...



Meanwhile, today First Minister Paisley and Deputy First Minister McGuinness will continue their US tour with a trip to the White House to meet President Bush. They're also expected to meet Senator Clinton later today. The meetings complete their trip to the US which sought to project their newfound positive image and try and drum up inward investment in NI, while the image of them at ease with each other retains lustre.

Back in Belfast, the draft Budget has caused trouble in the coalition. The consternation of the UUP (and to a lesser extent the SDLP) is becoming more and more clear. Elements of the UUP support removing themselves from the executive but it seems unlikely Empey will take that course right now. The Budget must be finalised in January at which point all the cards will have to be played and we'll see whether things can be resolved.
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« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2007, 07:19:46 am »
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Looks like the campaign backed by all of the major parties in the North to get the rate of corporation tax (30%) cut so that it would be in line with the Republic (12.5%), in a bid to encourage foreign direct investment, has failed.

The report of Sir David Varney states that there is “no clear and unambiguous case to cut corporation tax rates” and so create a divergence with the rest of the UK. The report claims the move would cost the regional economy £2.2bn in revenue over 10 years.

The North's Minister for Finance, Peter Robinson (DUP-Belfast East), has said that it's not the end of the matter and the campaign will continue.

Comment
While I think there are valid concerns for the British Treasury regarding such a cut; I think they really should have shown more latitude. There is a strong case for supporting measures which will help promote foreign direct investment in NI. In the current economic climate, and with our having a much reduced rate as well as most other beneifts the North can provide, it's going to be very hard for TPTB there to deliuver significant and stable investment to the region.
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« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2007, 05:02:37 pm »
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You're misusing the word "general" in the Ulster context. Please report only on issues relating to the general community in this thread in the future. Catholic issues go into the Northern Ireland Catholic Discussion thread.
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« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2007, 04:38:06 am »
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You're misusing the word "general" in the Ulster context. Please report only on issues relating to the general community in this thread in the future. Catholic issues go into the Northern Ireland Catholic Discussion thread.

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« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2007, 10:40:11 am »
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How about we call this "Stroke Province General Discussion"? Because no-one can agree on the name.
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« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2007, 11:43:16 am »
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Seán Hoey (the only man brought to court over the Omagh Bombing) has been found not guilty on all 56 charges which were brought against him at Belfast Crown Court today - the DNA evidence having been rejected. During the 56 day trial, it was alleged that Hoey (who has spent 4 years in custody) was the bombmaker.

The presiding judge in the non-jury trial, Mr. Justice Weir accused the police of "deliberate and calculated deception" and has refered the matter to the Police Commissioner for consideration. Following the verdict, a number of victim's relatives have also come out and made damning comments about the police investigation.

Reports:
The Irish Times: Breaking News Article
BBC NI Report
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« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2008, 01:27:31 pm »
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Today's Irish Times reports that Ian Paisley (81) will retire as the Westminster MP for North Antrim at the next election - a seat he's safely held since the 1970 General Election. The news comes just as Paisley is stepping down as head of the Free Presbyterian Church.

It is still expected that Paisley will remain NI First Minister and that he will seek to finish the current executive's 4 year term.
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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2008, 08:21:26 am »
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Interesting developments in the Assembly. Yesterday, the SDLP voted against the Programme for Government, which passed 60-24. All members of the party voted against the programme, except their minister - Margaret Richie (SDLP, South Down, Minister for Social Development). Had she voted against, she would have probably been removed from office.

The Budget is up for vote today and again the SDLP (except Richie) are expected to oppose. Despite the official line that they will remain in government, the position of being an opposition within government is a very odd one (at least on these islands).

The party seems to be divided on whether or not to remain, putting Mark Durkan (SDLP leader, Foyle) in yet another difficult position.
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« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2008, 08:39:21 am »
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Why is the SDLP taking that position?

The laws about the Northern Ireland government formation would ensure that similar situations will continue one would assume.
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« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2008, 09:36:54 am »
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Why is the SDLP taking that position?

Officially - "They [SDLP] are citing issues like water reform, the lack of detail over the 11-plus replacement and the lack of a children's fund" (BBC).

All of which are genuine SDLP concerns, but the underlying reason is simply that they lack any real clout within the executive and so have no real influence beyond their sole department - which itslef is dependent on the DUP controlled Ministry of Finance. IMO, they're lashing out politically to try and get taken seriously.

The laws about the Northern Ireland government formation would ensure that similar situations will continue one would assume.

True. It's not inconceivable though that the SDLP (and even the UUP - also suffering from similar internal problems) could pull out of the executive leaving the DUP and SF tied together and goodness knows how that would run for their length of office and indeed how the electorate would then decide to reqard/punish the various players.
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2008, 12:28:19 pm »
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The first electoral test for Jim Allister's Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) (see the first post of this thread) has come and gone.

A Banbridge Council by-election was held the other day following the resignation of Tyrone Howe (UUP), the former Irish rugby player, who topped the poll originally.

Last time out the result was as follows...

First Count:
Tyrone HoweUUP 1304
Norah Beare DUP 1292
Paul Rankin DUP 870
David Herron DUP 838
Cassie McDermott SDLP 712
William Martin UUP 580
Francis Branniff SF 429


1st preferences by party:
DUP 3000 49.8%
UUP 1884 31.3%
SDLP 712 11.8%
SF 429 7.1%


Which eventually translated as 3 DUP; 1 UUP; 1 SDLP
Thus any single seat by-election should have seen the DUP been in a very strong position to win.

However...

Banbridge Council By-election
1st Count
Paul Stewart DUP 1069 28.3%-21.5%
Carol Black UUP 91224.2%-7.1%
Keith Harbinson TUV 73919.6%+19.6%
David Griffen Alliance 3579.5%+9.5%
Paul Gribben SF 3509.3%+2.2%
John Drake SDLP 2907.7%-4.1%
Helen Corry Green 591.6%+1.6%

Jim Allister is reported to be delighted with the TUV's almost 20% showing, and it seems to have all come from disaffected DUP voters, which made the UUP very competitive here. From these numbers it was clear that the seat would be decided by the benefactors of the TUV transfers.

After the eventual eliminations and transfer of all of the Green; SDLP; SF; and Alliance votes, it came to:
Carol Black UUP 1194+282
Paul Stewart DUP 1178+109
Keith Harbinson TUV 828+89

Unsurprisingly, these votes flowed more easily to the UUP than the DUP or TUV and gave the UUP a narrow lead and left the TUV transfers decisive.

Final Count:
Carol Black UUP 1571+377
Paul Stewart DUP 1508+330

The TUV split pretty evenly between the UUP and DUP. It seems that either an element therein either no longer see a real difference between them (in terms of their unionist credentials) or decided to simply punish the DUP.

Anyway... the UUP surprisingly held the seat. It will be interesting to see if the TUV can maintain or even build on this sort of level of support and what effects that would have. Also, are the DUP to be taken dowen a peg or two? Of course, extrapolating from a council by-election is probably the height of madness, but certainly these numbers give credence to the idea that the TUV could win seats in Assembly elections and become a real player in NI politics.
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« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2008, 07:46:16 am »
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Ian Paisley Jr. has resigned his position as a Junior Minister.
(BBC Report; Irish Times article)

Paisley Jr. has been the subject of controversy over a number of issues for the past few weeks; most prominantly his lobbying the British government on behalf of a local businessman during the St. Andrew's Agreement talks. Issues regarding his being salaried as a Westminster parliamentary researcher for his father (whilest being a Junior Minister in tthe Assembly) and the cost of renting a constituency office have also been controversial. The DUP's loss of the high-profile local by-election which they should have won may also have been a contributing factor.

Paisley Jr. intends to remain as a DUP MLA for Antrim North, but his political future seems effectively at an end, or at least limited to that seat. The consequences for paisley Sr. and the DUP in general are still unclear.
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« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2008, 12:36:55 pm »
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Presumably this kills off any hope he might have had of following on from his dad as leader?
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« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2008, 12:44:02 pm »
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Presumably this kills off any hope he might have had of following on from his dad as leader?
Depends. I wouldn't rule out a comeback, but it should take a while. Which means his dad would have to continue for quite a number of years. Which makes it unlikely. Of course, he might become his father's second successor.
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« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2008, 01:19:08 pm »
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Presumably this kills off any hope he might have had of following on from his dad as leader?
Depends. I wouldn't rule out a comeback, but it should take a while. Which means his dad would have to continue for quite a number of years. Which makes it unlikely. Of course, he might become his father's second successor.

Up until now he was considered unlikely - lest Paisley Sr. held on for much longer than presumed - to take over the leadership. Given that Sr. stood down last time as an MEP; has recently stood down as Free Presbyterian Moderator; and is widely reported to stand down as MP at the next election - I think that the prospects are increasingly that Paisley Sr. will go in the short rather than the long term. The fact that Paisley Sr. seems to be involved in part of his son's irregularities hasn't helped his perceived longevity either. Indeed, Paddy Power have him odds on to retire as First Minister this year.

Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds were and remain the frontrunners to be the next leader (though Robinson's stance as strong favourite has taken a hit recently for a number of reasons including because the strategy for the by-election was seen as his).

I don't see there being any way in which Paisley Jr. could become the next DUP leader. We will know whether Paisley Jr. has any real political future with whether or not he will replace his father as the North Antrim MP - which should simply be a matter of getting the DUP nomination, which should be a very straightforward matter as most of those around Ballymena disgruntled with the Paisleys have already left for the TUV or to be Independents.

Right now, I don't really see a way back to the top of the DUP for Paisley Jr., but that will depend on how Paisley Sr. ends up leaving and who exactly the next leader will be - but I don't think Paisley Jr. has too many friends in the upper echelons. I think his career has peaked.
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« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2008, 07:46:08 pm »
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Within days of Paisley Jr. being pressured into resigning as a junior Minister; he's been appinted to another political position. His father has appointed him to the NI Policing Board - the position he held prior to getting the ministry.

Rising to replace Paisley Jr., is Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP-Lagan Valley) who vacated the policing board spot. It is in effect a straight swap.

Seems quite remarkable to me that he could walk into another relatively important political job so soon afterwards, but then I suppose things be different for the Paisley family.

BBC Report
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« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2008, 10:58:48 am »
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Peter Robinson will take over from Ian Paisley as leader of the DUP.

There was no opposition. As expected he was unanimously approved by the party's MLAs, as was Nigel Dodds who is to become Deputy Leader.

Coincidentally, Robinson, Finance Minister in the Executive, met with Brian Cowen, Irish Finance Minister and presumptive Taoiseach, earlier today also.

Irish Times: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2008/0414/breaking150.htm
BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7345060.stm
Irish Times, Cowen meeting: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2008/0414/breaking123.html?via=rel
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« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2008, 11:00:29 am »
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Robinson's only 59? He seems to have been around forever...
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« Reply #18 on: July 24, 2008, 04:03:26 am »
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The UUP and Conservatives seem likely to restore their old alliance. David Cameron and Reg Empey have apparently been in talks about the UUP retaking the Tory whip and taking potential ministerial posts. In a joint statement, the two leaders said:
"For the first time in decades the people of Northern Ireland will now have a new choice of politics. These discussions with the UUP should mark the beginning of a creation of a new mainstream political movement that could provide leadership nationally but as importantly at every other level." (Irish Times Article)

Strikes me as a movement towards politics of the old rather than politics of the new and that Reg Empey really has no idea what to do with the UUP or how to take on the DUP.

----

Iris Robinson's remarks continue to get some play - regarding the issue of a what had been rumoured possible Tory-DUP alliance (which has obviously now been superceded) and the possible extention of abortion laws á la England & Wales to Northern Ireland.

- Irish Times

----

Meanwhile, at Stormont, a stand-off between the DUP and Sinn Féin has meant that the Executive hasn't met now for over a month. The delayed devolution of policing & justice powers and the refusla of the DUP to implement legislation on the Irish langauge have riled Sinn Féin; while Sinn Féin's attempts to abolish the 11-plus are particularly bothersome to the DUP.

All of which has of course led to the UUP and SDLP complaining that their ministerial work is being hampered.

- Irish Times

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« Reply #19 on: July 24, 2008, 01:40:53 pm »
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An alliance with the Tories seems like the only way to save the UUP and unionism in general from the Paisleyites.
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« Reply #20 on: July 24, 2008, 01:43:19 pm »
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An alliance with the Tories seems like the only way to save the UUP and unionism in general from the Paisleyites.

Save the UUP? You mean save "Sylvia Hermon for North Down". The UUP have absolutely no chance of winning anything else.
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« Reply #21 on: July 24, 2008, 01:47:07 pm »
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An alliance with the Tories seems like the only way to save the UUP and unionism in general from the Paisleyites.

Save the UUP? You mean save "Sylvia Hermon for North Down". The UUP have absolutely no chance of winning anything else.

They don't now. But they could recover over the course of several decades.
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« Reply #22 on: July 24, 2008, 01:57:42 pm »
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An alliance with the Tories seems like the only way to save the UUP and unionism in general from the Paisleyites.

Save the UUP? You mean save "Sylvia Hermon for North Down". The UUP have absolutely no chance of winning anything else.

They don't now. But they could recover over the course of several decades.

Over the course of several decades, Ian Paisley will die, and the DUP will moderate.
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« Reply #23 on: July 24, 2008, 02:03:44 pm »
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An alliance with the Tories seems like the only way to save the UUP and unionism in general from the Paisleyites.

Save the UUP? You mean save "Sylvia Hermon for North Down". The UUP have absolutely no chance of winning anything else.

They don't now. But they could recover over the course of several decades.

Over the course of several decades, Ian Paisley will die, and the DUP will moderate.

The people in the lower leadership positions don't consider the Pope the Antichrist?
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« Reply #24 on: July 24, 2008, 03:09:16 pm »
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The DUP aren't just a bunch of fundamentalists... in any case, I don't see how hooking up with the Tories (again) will help the UUP at all. Maybe people should remember quite how well (or rather "badly") the Tories did when they stood in NI in '92.
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