Friday, 4 April 2008

Ahern jumps

Two weeks ago we mused that: “Bertie and Ian might both have time to wander round the site of the Battle of the Boyne together come the summer.” The decision of Bertie Ahern to resign as Tiaoseach did, nevertheless, come as surprise. There was a sense that while he was on a slippery slope that he would see things through until the Summer Recess.
There was certainly surprise and a degree of confusion, at least in Northern Ireland, as to why he has chosen 6 May as the date for his resignation to take effect. This enables him to bask in the glory of addressing the Joint Houses of the United States Congress on 30 April but why has he denied himself the backslapping media limelight of the Investment Conference on 7 and 8 May in Belfast?
Given that most people seem to consider the Belfast Agreement to be his primary legacy it seems strange that he is denying himself this lap of honour.
Many commentators regard the growth of the Irish economy during his 11 year tenure to be his other main achievement and indeed many the voters who re-elected him for the third time last year will probably feel this is more important to them that whatever happened ‘up North’. In truth it may be too soon to judge his economic legacy. The extent to which the Republic has built firm economic foundations will be judged over the next few years while house and other asset prices re-adjust downwards and the funds from Europe finally stop. It is undoubtedly the case, however, that under ‘Bertie’ the ‘Celtic Tiger’ achieved great things and the economy developed hugely. The pharmaceutical sector consolidated and the IT and financial services sectors flourished leaving the economy transformed.
We’ll leave the detailed analysis of Bertie’s career to others, however, the complicated accounts of foreign currency being paid in and out of bank accounts and the peculiar explanations leave one thankful that Bertie gave up accountancy and became a politician.

Sectarian attacks continue

The seemingly ever present threat of sectarian thuggery remerged this week when a man was left critically injured after an attack in Belfast city centre. The attack, reputedly carried out by football supporters, is just the most recent of a series of similar incidents. The attack was the cue for Republicans to continue their ‘sabre-rattling’ about the ‘inadequacies’ of the PSNI which it began after the murder of Bap McGreevy. This led to media headlines that the police had been forewarned about the attack – which it turns out relates to a phone call from bar staff less than half an hour before the incident.

Republicans upset by attack on Adams

Republicans were so incensed by a column written by Robin Livingstone in the Andersonstown News that the newspaper removed the offending column from its website and printed an apology. The ‘Squinter’ column, like the rest of the paper, has for a long time been an uncritical supporter of Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams but the column sought to accuse Gerry Adams of falling to recognise his responsibilities with regard to the social problems of West Belfast.
The column would probably not have been noticed much beyond West Belfast but the ‘censorship’ of ‘Squinter’ and the original criticisms were then carried by a number of other newspapers – including some with large GB circulations.

Abortion to be used as ‘bargaining chip’?

The Blair government was quite happy to use the number of councils, academic selection and water charges as ‘tools’ with which to drive an agreement in the run up to St Andrews. Would Gordon Brown, who shows little sign of being worried about the views of NI voters, use the threat of bringing NI abortion laws in line with GB to force a deal on the devolution of policing and justice?