Latest entry

Not saying it with an X

  • Mark Devenport
  • 14 Feb 08, 05:04 PM

Before you read on, it's not Mark Devenport. It's Martina Purdy. Mark is on leave and after some effort I've managed to burrow into the blog.....

The Dromore by-election has been declared a Black day for the DUP - by the Ulster Unionist leader. Sir Reg Empey was jubilant his party's candidate Carol Black won the day in Dromore. The results were: DUP 1069, UUP 912, TUV 739, Alliance 357, SF 350, SDLP 290, Green Party 59.

The DUP might be comforting themselves by topping the poll, but in a proportional representation election, they lost out when the transfers were counted. A St Valentine's first-past-the post Westminster style X would have brought victory but the 1,2,3 PR vote only delivered defeat this time.

While Sir Reg was gloating, so was the TUV MEP. JIm Allister seemed just as delighted, declaring the result a "thumping vote of no confidence for the Chuckle Coalition." Mr Allister went on to declare it an "unhappy Valentine's Day for the Chuckle Brothers."

The DUP's Edwin Poots described the result as a protest vote which will bel istened to - and hit back. He said Mr Allister "may crow about valentines and chuckles" but insisted unionists would recognise that the TUV would not have saved Ulster from a seven council "repartition", or an Irish language act putting English on par with Irish - not to mention direct rule ministers with a greener tinge.

The question - especially in London and Dublin - is whether the DUP can recover from its "black eye" and woo back hearts and minds before the next poll.

Recent entries

A defining moment

  • Mark Devenport
  • 17 May 07, 01:16 PM

Forget May 8th - when the history books are written it's May 17th they'll all be talking about. Why? Well that was the day this blog finally acknowledged that the Assembly election campaign finished some time ago and migrated to a new home on the web. After being overcome by popular demand (well 3 comments anyway) the BBC has decided to keep this blog going indefinitely. The new working title is "The Devenport Diaries" and you should be able to find it here.

Thanks very much to all those who have read and commented on the blog so far. We can't migrate the archive over to the new site, but rest assured those historians looking for a defining moment will be able to read your comments on this site, which should be preserved for posterity.

Mutual Backscratching 3

  • Mark Devenport
  • 16 May 07, 04:49 PM

So the timing of Bertie Ahern's speech in the Westminster Royal Gallery was nothing to do with the Irish election. But what then do we make of Tony Blair's appearance, praising Mr Ahern, in Fianna Fail's Party Political Broadcast? It's true that Mr Ahern appeared in a tribute film to Mr Blair shown at the last Labour party conference. But what happened to the convention of not interfering in other countries' elections? And isn't there a Labour party fighting the election south of the border?

Politics and morality

  • Mark Devenport
  • 16 May 07, 04:41 PM

Bertie Ahern had an interesting quote from Daniel O'Connell in his speech to MPs and Lords yesterday. He quoted the champion of Catholic emancipation as saying "there is nothing politically right that is morally wrong.”

I wonder whether people agree that the peace process has followed this dictum, or has been an example of the end justifying the means?

Sheep and Goats

  • Mark Devenport
  • 16 May 07, 04:36 PM

"Parents don't want their children sorted into sheep and goats at the age of eleven". Who said that today? Martin McGuinness? Catriona Ruane? No, it was David Cameron explaining his latest policy shift on grammar schools. The local Tories have put out a statement saying that grammar schools in Northern Ireland work well and they will continue to back academic selection. Their NI Spokesman David Lidington has echoed that view. But could the Cameroonian shift influence the unionist nationalist debate about academic selection?

Mutual Backscratching 2

  • Mark Devenport
  • 15 May 07, 04:57 PM

Blogging today from Westminster where I spent the day watching Bertie Ahern address both Houses of Parliament in the splendid gilt edged surroundings of the Royal Gallery, a chamber which sits between the Commons and the Lords. The Taoiseach took his place in a line of about 30 dignitaries honoured in this way before. They include Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and General De Gaulle. As noted here previously, Ruairi Quinn and Pat Rabbitte both objected to the timing of this invitation in the midst of the Irish General Election campaign. But Fine Gael's Enda Kenny took a different tack, accepting his invitation as a recognition of his party's contribution to the peace process. Certainly the bi-partisan turnout so far as Westminsterwas concerned (both John Major and Gordon Brown were in the audience) shows the British establishment believes May 8th is something worth marking.

No Assembly Group on Women

  • Mark Devenport
  • 14 May 07, 02:44 PM

The Ulster Unionists' call for the Assembly to rejoin the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association may have got through "on the nod", but Sinn Fein's attempt to create an all party working group on women hit the buffers today when the Assembly voted 44 to 43 in favour of a DUP amendment. The DUP's Michelle McIlveen argued that such a group would duplicate the work of the Office of First and Deputy First Minister. The Strangford MLA also wanted to be recognised as a politician who had got to Stormont on merit, not as a result of a quota system. Earlier Sinn Fein's Jennifer McCann described the current number of women MLAs (18 out of 108) as a disgrace.

The best moments in the debate featured the Ulster Unionists explaining their 100% male assembly team. Basil McCrea's maiden speech should have been heard without interruption but there were some raucous noises off when he accused the DUP and Sinn Fein of deselecting women candidates in the March elections. Roy Beggs explained that the UUP's woman MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon, hadn't been able to stand. The Alliance's Naomi Long got the biggest laugh when she quipped that the only maidens on the Ulster Unionist benches were men making their maiden speeches.

The UUP defector Arlene Foster acknowledged sarcastically that whilst the UUP's Assembly team was 100% male, its Commons team, now down to just one MP, was 100% female.

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