Stormont welfare crisis: Risks of making judgement calls

Bookies
After previous efforts at offering odds, my career as a tipster is on hold

I'm not a betting man, but inevitably in my line of work I am sometimes pressed to make judgement calls, some of which I come to regret.

So it was that on Good Morning Ulster during the marathon Stormont House talks, the presenter Conor Bradford backed me into a corner and demanded that I should call it "deal or no deal?"

I responded that Stormont House looked like a tired old nag, a 100-1 outsider.

Within days, the politicians emerged to proclaim a new dawn in devolution. Not for the first time I had to eat my words very publicly on air.

My judgement call had been wrong, but I hadn't pulled it out of thin air.

Sinn Féin position paper
Sinn Féin's position paper set out clearly the party's belief that there should be no reduction in any of the benefits under the executive's control

Read full article Stormont welfare crisis: Risks of making judgement calls

Sinn Féin resilient despite new IRA sex abuse allegations

Paudie McGahon
County Louth man Paudie McGahon told the BBC's Spotlight programme that an IRA man abused him and then threatened him to remain silent.

A BBC Spotlight programme has again exposed the underbelly of republicanism, and what Gerry Adams himself describes as the "inadequate and inappropriate" way the IRA dealt with allegations of sexual abuse in the past.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was more colourful, calling the treatment of County Louth man Paudie McGahon an intolerable "kangaroo court".

Read full article Sinn Féin resilient despite new IRA sex abuse allegations

DUP weigh up their options after BBC TV debate decision

Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds
Senior DUP figures including Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds will be mulling over the decision

So the BBC Trust has backed the Corporation's editors over their decision not to invite the DUP on to its planned seven party UK election debate.

The trust, which is the oversight body for the BBC, found that the management's thinking was not unreasonable on a number of fronts.

Read full article DUP weigh up their options after BBC TV debate decision

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.

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?