RSS feed
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

Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker row: When is a deal not a deal?

Peter Robinson in assembly chamber
MLAs failed to elect a new speaker to chair debates at the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday, despite a deal made seven years ago between the DUP and Sinn Féin

Given the ramifications for the public of the deadlock at the Northern Ireland Assembly over budgets and welfare reform, the failure to elect a new assembly speaker may seem exclusively of concern to those inside the Belmont "beltway" (to borrow a phrase from US politics).

However, there must be a danger that the Democratic Unionist Party's decision to hold back on their very public commitment to replace Willie Hay with a Sinn Féin speaker will further debase the shaky currency at future Stormont negotiations.

When the parties convene on Thursday 16 October (assuming talks go ahead as envisaged by Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers) there will no doubt be recriminations over previous broken deals regarding the speaker, welfare reform and the Maze peace centre.

Welfare reform stand-off

The precedent set by last year's Haass talks is not encouraging. But say, for the sake of argument, the parties manage to broker an historic agreement this Christmas, then the question immediately arises, what is to stop one or other party going back on any pact in the New Year?

The prism through which First Minster Peter Robinson presented his tactic on Monday was that of the immediate stand-off over welfare reform. But it also true that if DUP MLAs hate anything more than having to co-operate with Sinn Féin, it is being seen to co-operate with Sinn Féin.

Read full article Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker row: When is a deal not a deal?

DUP debate: From Twitter reshuffle to power-play?

Tweets in support of DUP leader Peter Robinson

Twitter has played a significant role in Northern Ireland politics during this assembly term.

When the Stormont parties picked their departments, the news was tweeted to the outside world.

Read full article DUP debate: From Twitter reshuffle to power-play?

Northern Ireland people keep close eye on Scottish Independence poll

Map of Scotland

Whatever the Scottish people decide in the independence referendum, come Friday a few fundamentals will remain.

On a clear day you'll still be able to glimpse Scotland in the distance from vantage points on the County Antrim coast.

Read full article Northern Ireland people keep close eye on Scottish Independence poll

Ian Paisley: A part of the fabric of Northern Ireland's Troubles

Ian Paisley
Up close he could be intimidating

He was part of the fabric of Northern Ireland's Troubles - the bombs, the tit-for-tat sectarian murders, the nervous soldiers patrolling streets daubed with paramilitary murals.

Those grim TV images were so often interspersed with the angry words of a preacher turned politician.

Read full article Ian Paisley: A part of the fabric of Northern Ireland's Troubles

Stormont - the alternatives to mandatory coalition

The debating chamber at Stormont

If Stormont is "not fit for purpose", as Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson has claimed, what are the possible alternatives, should the Westminster government convene a fresh round of negotiations?

1. Abolishing the mandatory coalition system and the designation of MLAs as "unionist" ,"nationalist" or "other". Ending the controversial cross-community vetoes, known as petitions of concern and forming devolved governments that take decisions on the basis of simple majority votes.

Read full article Stormont - the alternatives to mandatory coalition

Northern Ireland double-jobbing to continue for now

Sammy Wilson

On the Nolan show on BBC Radio Ulster, Sammy Wilson confirmed he plans to stand again for the East Antrim Westminster seat at next year's election.

Given that earlier this year the NIO passed an act banning MPs double-jobbing, that means he'll have to leave Stormont, doesn't it?

Read full article Northern Ireland double-jobbing to continue for now

Remembering the IRA ceasefire 20 years on

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.

Read full article Remembering the IRA ceasefire 20 years on

Monkey business at Stormont

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.

Read full article Monkey business at Stormont

Mark added analysis to:

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

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.

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

Stormont politicians' Middle East views 'predictable'

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.

Read full article Stormont politicians' Middle East views 'predictable'

Latest Tweets

More Correspondents

  • Brian Taylor, Political editor, Scotland Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

    What's happening in the world of Scottish politics


  • Nick Robinson, Political editor Nick Robinson Political editor

    The latest on what’s going on in and around politics


  • David Cornock, Parliamentary correspondent, Wales David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

    Welsh view of Westminster, the personalities and Parliament


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

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.