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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

Remembering the IRA ceasefire 20 years on

29 August 2014
Ceasefire
The statement as it appeared on BBC NI's Newsline

Listening back to my breathless tones when I announced the 1994 IRA Ceasefire on BBC Radio 5 Live I can forgive one radio newspaper reviewer who accused me of getting over-excited.

In fact it wasn't excitement which had taken my breath away, but a brisk 100-yard dash between the phone where my colleagues Brian Rowan and Shane Harrison were ringing in their ceasefire statements and the radio studio where Diana Madill was awaiting my on-air interruption.

My immediate analysis concentrated on whether a "total" cessation amounted to a "permanent" ceasefire. Since the 1970s, the only recent ceasefires Northern Ireland had experienced were short three-day Christmas truces.

So it's understandable that commentators and politicians remained unsure whether the 1994 initiative would last.

Lives saved

Of course the ceasefire did break down, with the IRA Docklands bombing in 1996. But, taken together with the October 1994 loyalist ceasefire, it pointed the way forward. Its restoration in 1997 provided the momentum for the eventual deal in 1998.

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Monkey business at Stormont

27 August 2014
Gary Hart
It is understood Mr Hart will use his visit to assess how the United States can assist the parties in Northern Ireland to advance the peace process

The arrival of former Democratic senator Gary Hart in Belfast just as Northern Ireland is about to mark the 20th anniversary of the IRA ceasefire is a bit of a surprise.

Senator Hart has long harboured an interest in Ireland.

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Mark added analysis to:

Ex-environment minister Sam Foster, Ulster Unionist, dies aged 82

19 August 2014

Quietly spoken but firm in his opinions, Sam Foster has been described as a man of courtesy and integrity by politicians from across the spectrum.

In 1987, Mr Foster was on the scene of the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing and pulled survivors from the rubble immediately after the IRA attack.

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Stormont politicians' Middle East views 'predictable'

18 August 2014
Newry mayor Dáire Hughes wrote to traders in the area asking them to consider not stocking Israeli goods
Newry mayor Dáire Hughes wrote to traders in the area asking them to consider not stocking Israeli goods

The row in Newry over the Sinn Fein Mayor's letter proposing a boycott of Israeli goods is the latest in a sequence of incidents highlighting the tendency for many nationalists and unionists to take sides when it comes to the conflict in the Middle East.

It follows the controversy over George Galloway's appearance at Belfast's Ulster Hall and the decision to remove the blue plaque from the wall of the birthplace of former Israeli president, Chaim Herzog, in the north of the city.

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On the runs deal: Sordid and shabby or legal and proper?

Lady Justice Hallett
Lady Justice Hallett was appointed to look at the scheme dealing with On the Run paramilitary suspects

Anyone looking at Dame Heather Hallett's review into On The Runs for an assessment of the moral righteousness of the government's approach to the peace process will be disappointed.

Judge Hallett describes the treatment of the On The Runs as "unprecedented".

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Mark added analysis to:

North Belfast: Unionists call for inquiry into 'parades impasse'

The sight of unionists queuing up to sign a pledge evoked memories of the 1912 Ulster Covenant against Home Rule, albeit on a rather less dramatic scale.

If the joint unionist/Orange commitment to lawful protest helps ensure a peaceful 12 July, then it won't be just the PSNI Chief Constable who breathes a sigh of relief.

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Parading: Two-line executive statement leaves much unsaid

Peter Robinson
First Minister Peter Robinson said the ministers' discussion of parading had been calm and measured

Politicians like nothing more than to confound pundits.

So, I detected a sense of satisfaction on the part of First Minister Peter Robinson as he told reporters that, far from being a shouting match like the executive's heated meeting in May, the ministers' discussion of Ardoyne and other recent parades decisions had been calm and measured.

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Pressure points and unintended consequences

Before the latest round of Stormont talks began I wasn't the only one sceptical about their purpose and timing.

Now it seems the main point served by the discussions was to provide unionist negotiators with something to boycott.

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Flags, parading and the past: No talks better than half-hearted try?

Haass talks
Talks chaired by Meghan O'Sullivan (left) and Richard Haass (right) ended without agreement

Few would argue against the maxim that it's "better to jaw-jaw than to war-war", but that does not mean every negotiating session is of equal value.

Talks like those that led to the Good Friday and St Andrews agreements were undoubtedly historic.

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A period of relative calm at the Stormont Executive

After the shouting match that took place at last week's executive meeting, this week's discussions were rather more even-tempered.

Ministers talked about the threat posed by "legal high" drugs, but with a public apology already made, no-one re-visited the controversy over Islam.

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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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