Man stops biting dog to watch liberal getting angry

And here’s something else – the Big Plan for getting policing and justice devolved to Stormont. The most interesting thing about the DUP-PSF deal (the outcome of which was predictable even if the timing was a bit up in the air) was not the deal itself so much as the spin around it.

Here’s the thing. The two biggest parties agreed that there would be a single justice minister, which is sensible after the debacle of appointing four victims’ commissioners in a futile effort to please every constituency. And they agreed that neither one of them would take on the job. So far so good.

So it was suggested, repeatedly, that the job would go to the Alliance Party. This greatly upset the SDLP, who pointed out that under the d’Hondt system they were next in line for a ministry. (Which is true, if you assume the justice minister to be of a piece with the Executive instead of a standalone post.) But everybody else seemed to think it a good idea.

Or so it seemed. The other day, the Radio Ulster midday news carried a report on the deal, and the probability of Alliance taking the job. Immediately afterwards, Alliance leader David Ford was on Talk Back. It is no exaggeration to say that Fordy was hopping mad. Not only did he not propose that his party would take the justice ministry, he demanded to know how this story had got about. Apparently none of the journalists who assumed Alliance would take justice had bothered to ask Alliance. This, Fordy gave out, was just a lot of spin from the Northern Ireland Office that the media had accepted uncritically.

You know, that has the ring of truth about it. But it’s quite funny to hear this from the party who were the willing instrument of the NIO for decades. By the way, the spin now is that the SDLP’s Alban Maginness, a man who everyone can do business with, is being lined up for the big job. But that’s just speculation. I expect the Green Party’s Brian Wilson will find his name being touted about next if he’s not careful.

In any case, Fordy underlined that Alliance would continue to carve out a role as Stormont’s opposition. This makes sense for them, and flags up a little conundrum for Alliance’s main rivals, the Official Unionists. On the one hand, Alliance’s position outside the big tent pissing in means that they can throw some populist shapes about Executive decisions. Granted that even the parties in the Executive pretend to be the opposition, to the point that you would think the government consisted solely of Peter Robinson, but it doesn’t carry much conviction if you’re on the inside. And granted too that Alliance aren’t very good at populism – just look at the motions on a typical conference clár for a flavour – but then neither are the Unionist Party these days.

On the other hand, there was the possibility being talked up of Alliance’s strongest electoral performer, the redoubtable Naomi Long, becoming the minister. I must confess, I quite like Naomi – despite her talking nineteen to the dozen, and having that great female talent of being able to go twenty minutes before she has to draw breath, she’s a very useful public representative. But Sir Reggie, as an East Belfast rep whose own seat isn’t entirely safe, must have been more than a little disquieted at the thought of Naomi gaining an even higher profile than she already enjoys.

Ah, Machiavellianism…


  1. Newton Emerson said,

    August 7, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Naomi Long lost it for me after her rabid defence of the Belfast city council Chicago junket. If she can’t face down a few careerist officials at city hall the PPS/NIO nexus will have her for breakfast.

  2. Sharon . said,

    August 7, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    It’s posts like the above that are gonna get ya this –
    -and deservedly so !
    But don’t tell those that view ‘1169..’ that I said that 😉 !

  3. igaeilge said,

    August 7, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Newton Emerson lost it for me when he wrote a mean spirited article in the Irish Times complaining about Féile an Phobail ‘exaggerating’ how big a festival it is. If he can’t admit that whether or not it’s the largest community festival in Western Europe, it’s a great event for Belfast during August, the PSNI/NIO nexus will have him over for breakfast.

  4. Newton Emerson said,

    August 8, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Go on, admit it yourself igaeilge. It’s NOT the largest community festival in Europe, or “Western Europe”, or even the UK. Or even Belfast, for that matter.
    But I’ll admit that it is certainly better than internment bonfires.

  5. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 8, 2008 at 9:08 am

    By the way, Newt, I’ve noticed a lot of irate quangocrats writing in to the Irish News lately. You must be doing something right.

  6. Newton Emerson said,

    August 8, 2008 at 9:19 am

    They don’t like it up them.

  7. ejh said,

    August 8, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    ’em, surely?

  8. Mark McGregor said,

    August 8, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I was told by several people that Brian was intending to retire from politics after this term. So you’d have to assume with no long term political future and being a former Alliance member he’d jump at the chance to bump up his pension by taking the job. While having nothing against him I can’t see him being up to the role – that’s him fully qualified for the Executive then.

  9. igaeilge said,

    August 9, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Newt, your article was the equivalent of “Killjoy woz here” – and no more witty. I’m sure if you went around to festivals all over the UK and Europe you would find something to carp at – but the fact is that Féile an Phobail is a success despite the inane insults of your likes from the sidelines. Get a life.

  10. Newton Emerson said,

    August 10, 2008 at 1:20 am

    That’s not the question here, igaeilge. The question is whether or not Feile is “the largest community festival in Europe”, as stated (repeatedly) by the organisers. This statement is manifestly untrue. Are you prepared to concede that? If not, why not?

  11. igaeilge said,

    August 20, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Because, as Danny Morrison pointed out referring to the programme of Féile an Phobail in this letterletter to the Irish Times in response to your ‘article’, that the claim is not that it is the largest community festival in Europe but the largest in Ireland and one of the largest in Europe. That could have been checked by you by reading the programme which was available online and which didn’t necessitate you travelling to a Féile event even. Standards at the Irish Times seem to be slipping if they allow columnists to submit articles based on mistaken and clearly prejudiced assumptions. You, as the Féile chairperson pointed out, seem to have a huge chip on your shoulder regarding West Belfast. No doubt that satisfies the Irish Times which has form in attacking the festival. I recall a similar article some years ago by Pól O Muirí. O Muirí, to his credit, at least paid the féile a visit and reviewed some of the events and reached some conclusions [which I found disagreeable]. The festival survives.
    I am not an uncritical supporter of Féile an Phobail – I do think that it has declined in some respects over the years but then again maybe that’s me. It doesn’t have to be the largest community in Europe to satisfy me – it just has to be festive. And it has to be said that Féile an Phobail, pound for pound, punches way above its weight in comparison to the lack lustre Belfast Festival….

  12. August 20, 2008 at 10:42 am

    […] comhrá ’spéisiúíl’ agam le h-údar an ailt ar bhlag eile – agus léirigh sé ansin chomh h-aineolach is atá […]

  13. Newton Emerson said,

    August 20, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    It is certainly interesting that the phrase “Europe’s largest community festival” disappeared from the front page of the Feile website between my article appearing and Mr Morrison’s response appearing. Is this what is meant by the title “publicity director”?
    Alas for Danny, this particular re-write of history can be easily found out via the Wayback machine..

    Danny is really losing his touch.
    Much amusement also among colleagues at his reference to “Maori juggling”. Would that involve a rugby ball in one hand and a kiwi fruit in the other.

  14. igaeilge said,

    August 20, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Just to humour you Newton I went and checked the Féile 2008 programme and it’s available here. See page 4 on the left hand side – it’s in English and as Gaeilge!
    The fact that is the reference you made a headline out only appeared on a website which hadn’t been updated recently. The link you provided on igaeilge was actually referring to last year’s festival! So now the Irish Times has given away valuable advertising space to a trainspotter for pointing out that a website hadn’t been updated since last year. It really is the silly season! You should get out more – go to the Féile next year rather than staying at a home like a sad git proofreading websites like a sad git….

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