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Off air

Mark Devenport | 13:54 UK time, Sunday, 17 April 2011

I'm just off air after this week's Inside Politics. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness wouldn't give away his party's exact pecking order when it comes to departments, preferring to play his cards close to his chest rather than confirm speculation they might choose an economic portfolio ahead of education.

He didn't seem in the mood to offer to extend the cross community system for electing the Justice Minister beyond its expiry date of May 2012. Instead he argued that Sinn Fein had passed every test which had been set for it when it comes to policing and justice. Mr McGuinness said he would tackle the issue with Peter Robinson after the election, by which time the clock will be ticking towards yet another peace process deadline.

When I asked the Deputy First Minister whether he'd put a foot wrong in claiming that the murdered Constable Ronan Kerr would have been a Sinn Fein voter he claimed that liberties had been taken in the reports of his comments. However I was able to point out that audio has been posted on the internet, backing the reports up.

Finally we discussed whether, given the evidence of dissident activity in East Tyrone, it is wise to press ahead with the construction of a police training college near Cookstown. Mr McGuinness maintained the project still made sense in security as well as political terms.

I also talked to Jim Allister, the TUV leader, who reiterated his opposition to the Stormont system and repeated his belief that the lack of an opposition puts Northern Ireland on a par with North Korea. I also raised with Mr Allister press reports that the Queen will deliver an apology for the 1920 Croke Park massacre whilst visiting Dublin next month. Mr Allister thinks that, if she does, this will be unwise and believes the series of apologies have been all one way (not surprisingly Martin McGuinness didn't share that perspective).

Finally I talked to the Socialist Party's Paddy Meehan. The Socialists (who previously were known as the Militant Tendency working within the Labour party) only got 473 votes when they stood in the 2007 Assembly elections. However they point to the recent Dail elections, in which they got 2 TDs elected, and hope that their opposition to any cuts will pay dividends. Mr Meehan reckons the participation of left wing parties in the election serves to expose the Stormont parties' attitude to the cuts as words rather than actions.

As I write the Politics Show is on air, with an outside broadcast from Omagh and a report by Yvette Shapiro on whether the Stormont structures will ever change. If you didn't catch it, there's another chance to tune in to the repeat on BBC1 tonight at 11.25pm


  • Comment number 1.


    Seriously... I have a complaint to make. This thread is too long for kenneth to read and decipher!

    On a more serious note: I think the Queen should go further. I think she should come to Derry and make an apology to the families of those murdered by her forces in 1972. In fact, she should visit every village, town and city the length and breadth of this island, and apologise for the actions of her forces. If it were not for the Crown forces' activities in Ireland, there would be no need for any armed actions by republicans.

    She should then travel to Stormont and tell all the people that her government is withdrawing from this island for good. Then we could all get on with making this island work without interference from the NIO and the British treasury. The upset at the Police Ombudsman this week, and the various other issues surrounding the Stormont Spygate saga and interference from Special Branch in the death of their own agent Denis Donaldson, all highlight the need for the Brit Government to leave and leave now.

    P.S. I can't wait until the votes have been counted. I wonder will Jim 'The Destroyer' Allister take Margaret 'The Iron Lady' Ritchie out for a drink to drown their sorrows? Now that would be a night to be the fly on the wall!

  • Comment number 2.


    Just another point I forgot to add. I would like to know why Jim Allister claims that the IRA were terrorists in 1916, and that the British army were legitimate? If they British army were legitimate, why did the British government pull out of Ireland, leaving the IRA to form the new government. It would appear that Jim the wrecker is wrong... Again! The real terrorists were those illegitimate British army personell, whom the IRA sent to sea after the War of Independence. The same British army that are now only allowed on the streets of Ireland, in very serious circumstances. The people of Ireland are a lot safer with the reduced capacity of these terrorists in British army uniforms!

  • Comment number 3.

    Disgusted, you say you want nothing to do with Britain but what about the loans they have given to the Republic of Ireland! I think politics has changed over the last few years and the United Ireland that yourself and many others have argued for is no longer visable.

  • Comment number 4.


    You used the word loan while at the same time you are trying to suggest that good old Britain gave the South of Ireland money. It was a loan, and will be paid back with interest. The British government don't do anything that is not of interest to them. An example would be the hypocritical approach to Libya, compared to that of Bahrain or Israel.

    As for the unity of this island: People like yourself and many others have argued against such a move, while at the same time see that it is even more visible than it was 10, 20 or even 80 years ago. A united Ireland is inevitable; I just hope that people like you, who bang on about democracy, actually accept the will of the people. I hope that discontented individuals don't do what others have done, and that is to use terrorism to oppose the will of the said people. Something Carson, Craig et al. did 100 years ago!

    It might take 50 years; it might take 100 years; it might be sooner; but this century will see the will of the Irish people being answered once and for all. When Irish eyes are smiling...(",)

  • Comment number 5.


    In contrast to Kenneth's view that your blog should read something akin to bona fide BBC articles (perhaps you've become a victim of your own high standards in that case), I believe, as I'm sure the majority of the readers do, that you've got a certain latitude when it comes to "blogging". For that reason, I begrudgingly tolerate this Jim Allister obsession - because a blog's a blog, afterall.

    However, when you're granting the man so much airtime and coverage, on the BBC's dime, I must speak up. Let's establish a few things to put this in context. Jim Allister "did well" in the European elections a few years ago. Which is to say he DID NOT get elected. He did terribly in Westminster elections. Again, unelected - roundly rejected. Now he's trying his hand at Stormont elections. He has, for some years now led a "party" with NO representation at any legitimate level of government. Jim Allister has as many party members in government as I do. I really must respectfully request that you concentrate the spots on "political programming" for either elected members or challenging members during a campaign. Yes, I'm aware that with this criteria Jim does have a "right" to be heard. But my point is he gets much, much more airtime than anyone else from a similar position. He monopolises airtime, particularly from the BBC. Perhaps let us know what Dawn Purvis thinks? I suppose she doesn't make as good radio/tv though, despite her more legitimate qualifications (i.e., being elected at last Stormont elections).

    Love, PieMan

  • Comment number 6.


    The Queen, in every village in Ireland, apologising for eight centuries of other people's actions. Well now we know what your first wish from the genie of the lamp would be :).

    You are right, Ireland will unite, that much is for sure but the border is going nowhere. Ireland will eventually unite in it's acceptance of the complex and dual identity that we all share in the North. Something that could never be fully described as British nor Irish. We are Northern Irish, none of the above.

    As for the IRA in 1916, they had no political mandate, they were supported by a miniscule number of Irish people and used violence to achieve a political aim. What is your definition of a terrorist organisation? The British army were an armed force of a nation state. These definitions are accurate and do not carry any value or judgement, with regard to the actions of the individuals involved. As we know only to well, the armies of nation states are as capable of inhumanity as any terrorist group.

  • Comment number 7.


    Hear hear. Let's hear from people who do actually get elected. Eammon McCann is as relevant as Jim the wrecker. Keep him off our airwaves and internet waves. His views drag us back 40 years.

    Wolfe Tone

    Of course you are correct to suggest that those involved in the 1916 Rising had no mandate. They never put themselves forward for a mandate, yet they had quite a number of members and sympathisers all over the island. They did get their mandate in 1918, when over 75% of the population of Ireland voted for factions of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Republican Brotherhood; all of whom at that stage came under the Sinn Fein Banner, or a nationalist ticket.

    I have to also point out that the British army have never had a mandate in Ireland. Nor had their government. A government who did, and still to this day does, use violence to achieve its political aims. The British army were in Ireland to keep the fires of revolution under control. Thanks to those brave patriots who gave the ultimate sacrifice on Easter week 1916, the flames of revolution were lit, and the War of Independence granted freedom for most of the Irish people.

    As for my identity, as Seamus Heaney once wrote: "... be advised my passport's green. No glass of ours was ever raised to toast The Queen". I'm an Irish man, from Ireland. A country that is provisionally divided. Everyone born on this island is also Irish; some choose to be British, and that is their right!

  • Comment number 8.

    Disgusted, i was making an observation. Having been born in Newry and attending school there as well, i do hope in the new Ireland that schoolchildren from Unionist backgrounds will be able to walk down the streets of Newry without being kicked, stoned, spat on or beaten up which my generation had to go through. Dont tell anyone this because it might spoil the myth that all Republicans are little angels!

  • Comment number 9.


    Well I guess you were luckier than those Catholic school girls who had to endure the pipe bombs while walking through the Glenbyrn estate. Sectarianism runs rife through this society. But don't tell anyone this because it might spoil the myth that all unionists are little angels! That works both ways, doesn't it!

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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