Among the many inscriptions on the Canongate wall at Holyrood, it is a terse Scottish proverb that sums up the reality of political life in the Scottish Parliament better than any bon mots from Hugh MacDiarmid or Norman MacCaig: ‘To promise is ae thing, to keep it is anither.’ Despite the enthusiasm that greeted its […]
Public Thinkers Beyond The University?
Last week a BBC Radio 3 scheme looking for “a new generation of public intellectuals” closed. Initiated in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the scheme aimed to unearth a new wave of public thinkers with an expressed “interest in broader cultural debate”. The competition was open to all – as long […]
Votes for emigrants
Last Monday morning, as Green Party leader John Gormley sounded the coalition’s death knell at a press conference in Dublin, my mind immediately turned to one thing: the general election that will, sooner or later, take place back in Ireland. ‘Will be interesting to see how many ex-pats go home to vote. I definitely will,’ […]
Having caused then denied problem, Fianna Fail is in firing line
AS ANY counsellor knows, acknowledging the existence of a problem is the first step to solving it. Unfortunately when it came to Ireland’s banking crisis, the ruling Fianna Fail-led coalition chose to remain firmly in denial until the contagion had spread out of control. As recently as Wednesday, finance minister Brian Lenihan told the nation […]
So Ireland's back to exporting its best known natural resource – emigrants
Here’s my Comment is Free piece on being an Irish emigrant, which appeared on Guardian.co.uk last week. The same piece also appeared in that week’s Irish Post Mourning can be a protracted business. In the past week, after years spent oscillating between low-level anger and outright denial, I finally graduated to acceptance: having left Ireland […]
Time for a Default?
“There is no reason why Ireland should trigger an IMF or EU-type bailout”, Irish Minister of State for Europe, Dick Roche, told the Today program on BBC Radio 4 this morning. But despite such government protestations, the scale of Ireland’s sovereign debt crisis is such that it seems only a matter of when, not if, […]
A Scottish Political Innovation?
When Mick Fealty calls asking for a favour it’s hard to say no. Not because he leans on you (which he doesn’t) but because you know that if he’s involved it’s going to be something vibrant, challenging and original. And that’s exactly what the Edinburgh Political Innovation camp on Saturday was. Billed as an ‘unconference’ […]
Campaign for Spending Increases Starts Here (A Hack Gets Political!)
Journalists are supposed to stay well away from Politics (and the capital ‘P’ is no typo). The fourth estate’s putative duty is to ask awkward questions, to speak truth to power, to avoid political biases, etc. etc…. But what happens when a cynical hack wakes up one morning and realises that the government he lives […]
Billy Wright's murder and the whiff of state collusion
Some of my thoughts on the Billy Wright inquiry and the issue of state collusion in Northern Ireland featured in this posting on The Guardian’s Comment is Free forum on September 15: David Wright’s verdict on the £30m, six-year inquiry into the death of his son, Billy, in Northern Ireland’s Maze prison in 1997, was […]
£30m spent, but questions remain unanswered
Even in the fractious world of Troubles Northern Ireland, Billy Wright was a singularly divisive character. As the leader of the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force in Portadown, he was responsible for the killings of more than 20 Catholics in the 1980s. In 1996, he rejected the UVF ceasefire, creating the Loyalist Volunteer Force and orchestrating […]