Justice bill weighed down with amendments

David Ford
Image caption The most headline-grabbing amendments to David Ford's justice bill concern changing the law on abortion

Next week the assembly has scheduled an extra day's sitting.

In part, that's due to having to deal with voting on John McCallister's Opposition Bill, which MLAs debated last week.

But it is also due to the large number of weighty amendments which have been attached to David Ford's Justice No. 2 Bill.

The most headline-grabbing amendments concern changing the law on abortion.

But there are also proposals to create a new domestic abuse crime of coercive and controlling behaviour, to stop people disclosing private sexual photographs or films with an intent to cause distress; to create a specific offence of assaulting and obstructing emergency workers and to increase the penalties on those found guilty of cruelty to animals.

Read full article Justice bill weighed down with amendments

New candidates won't warm to talk of election poster ban

Ulster Unionist MLA Michael McGimpsey Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Michael McGimpsey is likely to continue voicing his views on healthcare in Northern Ireland in his retirement

Earlier this month it was the Social Democratic and Labour Party's Alban Maginness in North Belfast who decided to retire, now it is Michael McGimpsey of the Ulster Unionists in South Belfast.

It is clear this May's Northern Ireland Assembly election will mark a generational change in Northern Ireland politics.

Read full article New candidates won't warm to talk of election poster ban

The Brexit debate: facts and figures versus hearts and minds

A European Union flag Image copyright Francois Lenoir

So, is Northern Ireland better off inside or outside the European Union?

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Colum Eastwood, who visited Brussels this week, is in no doubt.

Read full article The Brexit debate: facts and figures versus hearts and minds

Retiring but not shy: Press will miss media-friendly Alban

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Alban Maginness would never shy away from giving his opinions on air, but will the next generation of MLAs be as forward with the press?

From having his moustache shaved off for charity to becoming the first nationalist mayor of Belfast, Alban Maginness has been a frequent presence on our TV screens during his 30 years in politics.

With his barrister's training, he was never shy to to take to the airwaves to fight his corner, and could be relied on to help the media out with a comment at short notice.

Read full article Retiring but not shy: Press will miss media-friendly Alban

Will changing of guard mean new direction?

Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster is promising a new style, but no change in the fundamental values of the DUP.

The next few months will provide an opportunity to assess if the DUP is heading in a more liberal direction, or standing its traditional ground, albeit with more modern slicker presentation.

Read full article Will changing of guard mean new direction?

Most Northern Ireland MPs to support David Cameron on Syria

A screen grab taken from a video released by the French army shows French army Rafale fighter jets and Mirage 2000 fighter jets bombing a series of IS sites in Raqqa, Syria Image copyright AFP
Image caption A majority of Northern Ireland MPs are expected to support the prime minister over bombing IS targets in Syria.

As the House of Commons prepares to vote on David Cameron's call for air strikes against IS held territory in Syria, it looks like a majority of Northern Ireland MPs will back the prime minister.

The DUP, which has eight MPs, has said it "will have further discussions with the government and will need to see the motion which will be voted on".

Read full article Most Northern Ireland MPs to support David Cameron on Syria

NI politicians pull back from precipice with 'Fresh Start' deal

Fresh Start deal document
Image caption It is claimed the agreement has secured an extra £500m for the Stormont budget

After 10 weeks of negotiations the "Fresh Start" deal means that once again Stormont's politicians have pulled back from the edge of the precipice.

Failure to reach a compromise would have meant the executive's so called "fantasy budget" would have run out at some point before the start of the next financial year.

Read full article NI politicians pull back from precipice with 'Fresh Start' deal

Bloody Sunday arrest highlights sentence differences

Bloody Sunday
Image caption Currently, a former paratrooper convicted of a crime on Bloody Sunday would not qualify for early release

During an interview about the Stormont talks, I asked the secretary of state a question relevant to the arrest of a former soldier for questioning about the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry.

Was she comfortable with the situation, I asked, that an ex-soldier found guilty of a Troubles offence would have to serve their full term in jail, while an ex-paramilitary could avail of the early release scheme introduced as a result of the Good Friday Agreement?

Read full article Bloody Sunday arrest highlights sentence differences

NI paramilitary assessment: The DUP and IRA 'fingerprints'

Peter Robinson
Image caption DUP leader Peter Robinson told the BBC he does not and has never believed the IRA's so-called army council has "different fingerprints" from the leadership of Sinn Féin

Rightly or wrongly, most reporters getting their hands on the eight-page assessment of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland flicked through to page four and the three paragraphs dealing with the Provisional IRA.

This was not because the Provisionals present the greatest threat - the report makes clear the security services are most concerned about the danger posed by dissident republicans, such as the so-called "new" IRA, Óglaigh na hÉireann, and the Continuity IRA.

Read full article NI paramilitary assessment: The DUP and IRA 'fingerprints'

Jonathan Powell and others 'risking their reputations' with loyalist initiative

Jonathan Powell was at the launch of the Loyalist Communities Council
Image caption Jonathan Powell was at the launch of the Loyalist Communities Council

I'm just back from the launch of the Republican Communities Council. It was fronted by a former Irish government official, but the council enjoys the support of the Provisional IRA and the INLA.

It now intends to work to tackle educational underachievement in republican areas, criminality and a sense of disenfranchisement felt by many nationalists with the political process.

Read full article Jonathan Powell and others 'risking their reputations' with loyalist initiative