Mark Devenport, Political editor, Northern Ireland

Mark Devenport Political editor, Northern Ireland

This is where you can come for my take on the big Stormont stories and the politicians making the news

MLAs turn from cuts to raising revenue

Stormont
The aim is to shave approximately £90m off the Stormont wage bill

As public sector unions announced plans to strike next month in protest against job losses and service cuts, senior finance department officials told MLAs they anticipated a high degree of interest in the voluntary exit scheme agreed during the Stormont House talks.

The aim is to shave approximately £90m off the Stormont wage bill - and that's just the scheme restricted to the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

Other schemes will soon come on line for sectors like health and education.

The lump sums received by departing staff will be paid for by the Treasury loan facility negotiated during the pre-Christmas talks.

Controversial

Arguments about the Stormont cuts tend to be a little circular, with the unions insisting the axe is falling on the most vulnerable and executive ministers pleading that they have no option given the decline in the UK block grant in real terms (if not cash terms).

Read full article MLAs turn from cuts to raising revenue

How will DUP respond to debate decision?

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson described the BBC decision on the election debate as irrational

The BBC and ITV have set out their logic for not inviting the DUP to their UK-wide election debates.

In a joint letter the broadcasters argued that, even though the DUP is the fourth biggest party at Westminster, it would not be fair for them to invite it alone to share a stage with other UK parties.

Read full article How will DUP respond to debate decision?

Syriza Greece election result pleases Sinn Féin

  • 26 January 2015
  • From the section Europe
Head of radical leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras
Gerry Adams has hailed the election victory of Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras

Sinn Féin is taking heart from the victory of the anti-austerity Syriza in the Greek election.

Gerry Adams said the "election result signals a victory of hope over fear" and "opens up the real prospect of democratic change not just for the people of Greece, but for citizens right across the EU".

Read full article Syriza Greece election result pleases Sinn Féin

Uncertainties remain despite Stormont House Agreement

Stormont House Agreement
The Stormont House Agreement does not command unqualified support from all the parties

Back in 1998 it was all so easy.

Ian Paisley and Bob McCartney were anti-agreement. U2, Ash, David Trimble, John Hume and a host of others were pro-agreement.

Read full article Uncertainties remain despite Stormont House Agreement

Future Northern Ireland Assembly changes outlined by governments

Enda Kenny and David Cameron
The proposals were in a paper given to the parties by the two governments

Stormont would put arrangements in place for an opposition as early as March 2015, according to the government paper circulated to the parties at Stormont House last week.

The paper proposes that parties "which would be entitled to ministerial positions in the executive, but choose not to take them up" should be "recognised as an official opposition".

Read full article Future Northern Ireland Assembly changes outlined by governments

PM's extra cash offer comes out of Stormont's existing coffers

Peter Robinson
First Minister Peter Robinson said if you are going to bribe someone then it's best not to bribe them with their own money

Its principal detractor, the TUV leader Jim Allister, described the prime minister and taoiseach's arrival at the Stormont talks as the "chequebook summit".

Logical, given the amount of chatter in the run-up to the negotiations about peace bonds or a peace investment fund worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Read full article PM's extra cash offer comes out of Stormont's existing coffers

Corporation tax: Carrot or stick?

George Osborne
The chancellor made the announcement in the House of Commons as part of his Autumn Statement

Anyone who thought the devolution of corporation tax was mainly a business issue, rather than an intensely political one, can think again.

By linking any move on corporation tax to achieving progress in the inter-party talks, George Osborne has given his cabinet colleague Theresa Villiers something Richard Haass never had when he was talks chair.

Read full article Corporation tax: Carrot or stick?

MLA expenses: A Stormont worth saving?

stormont
BBC's Spotlight programme examined the way MLAs use public money to rent their offices

Following the BBC Spotlight programme examining the way Stormont politicians use public money to rent their offices, what next for MLA expenses and public confidence?

The DUP's Peter Weir reckons it is the fault of the system, rather than the behaviour of individual MLAs.

Read full article MLA expenses: A Stormont worth saving?

Northern Ireland talks process: Cut Stormont down to size?

Martin McGuinness
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he would be in favour of a reduction in the number of assembly members

The immediate emphasis in the Stormont talks has been on welfare reform and the budget, but the politicians are also discussing the not-entirely-unconnected question of cutting the size of the government.

The DUP has circulated a paper reaffirming its support for fewer departments and fewer MLAs. Previously, the party has argued for an assembly of between 70 and 80 MLAs.

Read full article Northern Ireland talks process: Cut Stormont down to size?

Northern Ireland talks process: On the road to nowhere?

Senator Gary Hart
There are hopes Senator Gary Hart, who has been appointed the US envoy, will help to progress the talks

After the first two weeks of Stormont talks, are we anywhere nearer to avoiding the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Executive?

The much derided £100m loan from the Treasury has bought a bit of time for negotiations to get under way, but there is little sign of compromise.

Read full article Northern Ireland talks process: On the road to nowhere?

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About Mark

BBC journalist since 1980s. Reporter for Spotlight, Ireland Correspondent covering IRA ceasefire and Good Friday Agreement, United Nations Correspondent in New York, Stormont Political Editor since 2001.

Covered stories in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Israel.

Author of Flash Frames -12 Years Reporting Belfast and co -author of Man of War, Man of Peace: a biography of Gerry Adams

Once worked as a trainee reporter for Indian newspaper "The Hindu".

Educated in Oxford before going to university in Cambridge to study history

Liverpool and Oxford United supporter.

Mark has an inherited condition which means he can't eat sweets

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