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May 08, 2007

Peter Hain: Signing Off

News about Ireland & the Irish

BT 05/08/07 Peter Hain: Signing Off
BT 05/08/07 Paisley And McGuinness For North South Talks
BT 05/08/07 Politicians In Belfast For Launch Of Power-Sharing
BN 05/07/07 Clinton Sends Good Wishes To North's Politicians
BT 05/08/07 Month By Month: The Tortuous Road To Devolution
NO 05/06/07 INA: Executive Is A Step Forward For Lasting Peace
BB 05/06/07 DUP Assembly Member Dawson Dies
BT 05/06/07 Assembly Can Deliver Says Hay
BB 05/08/07 Michael McIlveen Mother's Grief 'Raw' One Year On
BT 05/08/07 Super-Councils Issue Early Test For Parties
BT 05/08/07 Families Of The Disappeared Look For Clues In The US
BT 05/08/07 Opin: Stormont Returns On Wave Of Goodwill
BT 05/08/07 Opin: How The Sunn Didn't Shine On The 1974 Agreement
BT 05/08/07 Opin: So, Will It Be A Case Of Yes, First Minister?


Signing Off

[Published: Tuesday 8, May 2007 - 08:58]
By Noel McAdam

This is the moment when years of political stalemate were
consigned to history and a new era of power-sharing was ushered

Secretary of State Peter Hain signed the restoration order which
sees responsibility for the governance of local affairs returned
to local politicians.

Ulster's MLAs take up the reins of power in a historic
reawakening of devolved government at Stormont this morning.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will be
among the guests who will witness Ian Paisley and Martin
McGuinness setting aside decades of enmity as they are installed
as First and Deputy First Ministers today.

"After Tuesday there is no going back for Northern Ireland," he

While his period in office has been pock-marked by continual
controversy, Mr Hain will use the high approval rating which
today's Stormont success story will bring, especially in the
Westminster 'village', as a fillip in his campaign to become the
next Labour Party deputy leader.

Mr Hain believes the new deal will stick. There is as much
likelihood of Direct Rule being re-imposed on Scotland and Wales
as coming back again in Northern Ireland, he has claimed.

The long-awaited official restitution came four years and seven
months after the Assembly was suspended - for the third time.

The institutions set up under the 1998 Good Friday deal had been
viewed as robust as the Agreement itself but were dogged by a
stop-start political process, in particular over IRA

The DUP and Sinn Fein appear keen to avoid the instability which
thwarted the UUP-SDLP dominated Executive.

Mr Hain said it had been "very striking" at both a personal and
strategic level how the parties have come together - better than
the last Executive.

A whole series of political firsts is on the cards following
today's ceremonies at Stormont, which include a special reception
for 300 specially-invited guests.

First this afternoon will see the sight of the new First Minister
Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness having
taken their pledges of office flanked by Tony Blair and Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern.

Prime Minister Blair, in perhaps his last major formal function
before announcing his departure date later this week, is due to
make a short speech voicing optimism that the new dispensation
will finally succeed. He will be joined by Mr Ahern who is also
expected to give a four-minute address as he faces his own unsure
political future in the increasingly frenetic election battle in
the Irish Republic.

Mr Paisley, due to join Mr Ahern again on Friday at the site of
the Battle of the Boyne to plant a tree, and Mr McGuinness will
also make their own, relatively brief, remarks.

While today marks the start of the new Assembly, proceedings
should be comparatively brief and its first full meeting will be
tomorrow - when committee chairpersons and vice-chairs will be
elected under the D'Hondt mechanism.

The first actual item of business today, however, will be the
nomination and election of a new Assembly Speaker, expected to be
William Hay of the DUP, replacing Eileen Bell who is leaving the
main political stage. After weeks of briefings by departmental
officials and private meetings between the parties, the first
meeting of the Executive could then come later this week.

But there has been speculation it could be delayed, perhaps until
next week, as a means of maintaining pressure on Chancellor
Gordon Brown over the 'peace dividend' economic package. There
will be the first meeting of the Assembly business committee, now
able to decide on what is debated without the say-so and
permission of Mr Hain, and the Assembly Commission which runs the
Stormont estate.

c Belfast Telegraph


Paisley And McGuinness For North South Talks

[Published: Tuesday 8, May 2007 - 09:07]
By Noel McAdam

The first full meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council is
expected to follow today's Stormont proceedings within weeks.

First Minister Ian Paisley - in what would be at least his second
official cross-border function following the tree-planting
ceremony with Bertie Ahern at the Boyne this week - and Deputy
First Minister Martin McGuinness are due to attend the first
meeting which is speculated to take place in Armagh or Dundalk.

The North/South body, which has remained in existence over the
almost five years of mothballed politics, was established in
Armagh on December 2, 1999.

It is designed to bring together those at an Executive level at
Stormont and in the Irish Government - an arrangement which may
change after the Republic's election and subsequent anticipated

The Council has joint North and South secretaries and a staff of
24 drawn from the civil service in Ulster and across the border.

Its aim is "to develop consultation, co-operation and action
within the island, on matters of mutual interest within the
competence of both administrations".

Acting jointly, Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness are required, to
provide both the power-sharing Executive and Assembly with the
dates and the names of Ministers due to attend Council meetings
as far in advance as possible and report back both to the
Executive and the Assembly following each North/South Council

Mr McGuinness said that Sinn Fein and DUP ministers from the
north sitting down with Ministers from the south, taking
government decisions on the All-Ireland Ministerial Council would
be a hugely important development " which will fundamentally
change politics on this island.

"Among our priorities in government will be the completion of a
Green Paper on Irish Unity within one year, identifying steps and
measures to promote and assist a successful transition to a
United Ireland.

"We will also appoint a Minister of State with the specific
responsibility to oversee this work and to direct and co-ordinate
the Government's all-Ireland policies across Departments."

c Belfast Telegraph


Politicians Descend On Belfast For Launch Of Power-Sharing

[Published: Tuesday 8, May 2007 - 08:39]
By David McKittrick

After more than a decade, Northern Ireland's peace process is due
to reach a triumphant culmination in Belfast today when Unionists
and republicans form a power-sharing government.

Tony Blair and the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will witness what is
regarded as a milestone designed to provide political
underpinning to the cessation of violence.

News organisations from all over the world are in Belfast for the
occasion, which will see installed at the Stormont Assembly an
administration headed by the two largest parties, the Rev Ian
Paisley's Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein. Mr Paisley and
Martin McGuinness are to take office as First Minister and Deputy
First Minister.

DUP ministers will head the departments of finance, the economy,
the environment, and culture and leisure. Sinn Fein will have
education, agriculture and regional development while smaller
parties will handle employment, health and social development. An
intricate array of checks and balances has been built into the
new system. In addition, the work of each department will be
scrutinised by a committee headed by Assembly members from
parties different to that of the ministers. Powers over policing
have yet to be transferred to Belfast, but may follow in the next
few years.

Mr Paisley attempted to step up pressure on Gordon Brown to
supply more money. He said in an interview: "There's no use
having a nice vehicle sitting in your driveway if you haven't the
fuel to put into it. It will not move an inch. It might be nicely
polished. It might be beautiful looking but it is not going to do

The First Minister-designate said the major difficulties included
challenges in the economy, a crisis in education, tax issues and
attracting new investment. He added: "There is great hype right
now where everybody seems to think everything is wonderful. What
I am trying to say as First Minister is this - look, we're not in

But using a notably constructive tone, he declared: "I would like
to see a good hard-working parliament here, with good speeches
and people dedicated to do what they have been sent here to do.
There is talent in the Assembly and I want to see the talent of
everybody used to the maximum for the good of Northern Ireland
and all of its people."

Gerry Adams said: "There is huge goodwill for the return of the
powersharing institutions in the North and growing support for
our proposals to build an Ireland of equals."

The people who made it possible


Nobel laureate and former head of Sinn Fein's nationalist rivals,
the SDLP, he championed the idea that republicans could enter the
political arena if the IRA abandoned violence.


Head of Sinn Fein, he supported IRA violence but sought dialogue
with a range of leading figures. While supporting the
decommissioning of IRA weapons he has fashioned Sinn Fein into a
major political force.


The Falls Road-based priest tried to persuade nationalist and
religious leaders that secret talks with Sinn Fein might increase
the chances of peace.


As Dublin prime minister he pushed the peace process. He
persuaded John Major that the peace process could work, and was
PM when the IRA declared its 1994 ceasefire.


He explored the prospects of peace and the huge question of
whether the IRA might be persuaded to abandon violence. He also
sanctioned secret talks with the IRA.


Devoted more time to Northern Ireland than any other US president
and caused a Washington-London rift by allowing Gerry Adams into
the US.


As leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, he took huge risks by
going into government with Sinn Fein while the IRA retained its
weapons. Has just joined the Tories.


The ex-US senator was despatched by Mr Clinton as peace envoy to
Belfast, where he spent five years chairing talks. He held the
talks together during many crises.


Spent a decade on the details of the peace process, trying to
coax republicans into power sharing. In effect he persuaded the
IRA to go away. Will regard today's event as one of the successes
of his time in office.


As Irish PM spent 10 years working with Mr Blair and negotiating
with republicans. He also built bridges with northern Unionists,
culminating in last month's public handshake with Ian Paisley.

c Belfast Telegraph


Clinton Sends Good Wishes To North's Politicians

07/05/2007 - 22:44:00

Former US President Bill Clinton tonight sent his good wishes to
Northern Ireland politicians via a lengthy call with Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern.

Mr Clinton, who played a leading role in the early stages of the
peace process, is not attending tomorrow's inauguration ceremony
in Belfast.

Mr Clinton and Mr Ahern spoke during a one hour telephone
conversation, a Government source said tonight.

"Both men reminisced about the many obstacles that had to be
overcome along the path to peach and democracy in Northern
Ireland," he said.

"Mr Clinton also took the opportunity to send his best wishes to
politicians attending tomorrow's power sharing inauguration
ceremony at Stormont.

"Mr Ahern thanked Mr Clinton for his kind words."

The Taoiseach is due to attend tomorrow's event with British
Prime Minister Tony Blair and other dignitaries who played a role
in the peace process.


Month By Month: The Tortuous Road To Devolution

[Published: Tuesday 8, May 2007 - 09:21]

It has been a long five years for Northern Ireland's politicians
as they tried to restore devolution to Stormont.

After three failed bids to revive power-sharing, what was
unimaginable for many people will finally come to bear later
today - Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness heading up a power-
sharing government.

These are the highs and lows Ulster's politicians encountered as
they plotted their way back to devolved government.


October 14: The Northern Ireland Assembly and power-sharing
executive is suspended after the arrest of Sinn Fein's head of
administration, Denis Donaldson, and three others for
intelligence gathering at Stormont.

October 17: Prime Minister Tony Blair travels to Belfast and
warns republicans they cannot continue the twin track of politics
and power-sharing.


May 1: Tony Blair postpones Assembly Elections to buy more time
for David Trimble's Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein to strike a
power-sharing deal.

September 4: The Independent Monitoring Commission is set up to
monitor the activities of paramilitary groups in the face of Sinn
Fein opposition.

October 23: Peace process choreography involving the Ulster
Unionists and Sinn Fein goes wrong when David Trimble claims
there was not enough transparency around the IRA's third act
disarmament for him to deliver his end of the deal.

November 26: The Democratic Unionists emerge for the first time
as the largest party in new Assembly Elections. Ian Paisley warns
he will not sit in government with republicans until the IRA
disarms and disbands.


January 5: Assembly members Jeffrey Donaldson, Arlene Foster and
Norah Beare defect from the UUP to the DUP.

September 18: After three days of intense negotiations involving
Tony Blair, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Northern Ireland
parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein resolve to keep talking.

October 4: Ian Paisley holds discussions with Bertie Ahern in

December 8: After the DUP and Sinn Fein fail to strike a
devolution deal, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern travel to Belfast to
publish their proposals for restoring power-sharing.

December 21: The IRA is accused of carrying out the œ26.5m
robbery of the Northern Bank in Belfast city centre, the biggest
UK bank robbery ever.


January 30: The Provisionals come under huge pressure after it is
accused of trying to cover up the murder of Robert McCartney
outside a Belfast city centre bar.

April 6: Gerry Adams makes an appeal to the IRA to revitalise the
political process by abandoning its armed campaign.

May 6: The DUP annihilates David Trimble's Ulster Unionists in
the General Election.

May 7: David Trimble quits as Ulster Unionist leader.

June 24: Sir Reg Empey becomes UUP leader.

July 28: The IRA announces a formal end to its armed campaign.

September 26: General de Chastelain and two clergymen acting as
independent witnesses announce the IRA has completed its
disarmament process.

December 8: The Stormont spy ring case collapses.

December 16: Gerry Adams stuns republicans by expelling Denis
Donaldson for confessing to being a British spy.


April 4: Denis Donaldson is shot dead in Donegal. The IRA denies

April 6: Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
give the parties a deadline of November 24 to set up a power-
sharing executive.

October 13: After three days of talks in St Andrews, Ian Paisley
agrees to a road map to devolution. But he makes power-sharing
with Sinn Fein dependent on SF signing up to policing.


January 28: Sinn Fein members back their leadership's proposal to
get involved in policing in Northern Ireland if power-sharing

March 9: The DUP and Sinn Fein further strengthen their hold on
the Assembly in a new Stormont election.

March 26: Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams announce on camera they
have struck a deal to revive power-sharing on May 8.

March 27: Disgruntled MEP Jim Allister quits the DUP over its
power sharing deal.

April 2: At a meeting at Stormont, it is decided the DUP will
take the finance, economy, environment and culture ministries.
Sinn Fein opts for education, regional development and
agriculture. The UUP chooses health and employment and learning,
while the SDLP claims social development.

c Belfast Telegraph


INA President Claims N. Ireland Executive Is A Step Forward In
Search For Lasting Peace.

New York, NY. Irish Northern Aid's National President, Paul
Doris believes the establishment of the new N. Ireland Executive
and power sharing arrangements between Sinn Fein and Ian
Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on May 8th is a step
forward in the search for lasting peace in Ireland.

"The peace process has been a rocky road," Doris said. "At
times, it has seemed that the Unionists and British securocrats
were treating it as an obstacle course as they repeatedly placed
hurdles in the political pathway to delay the implementation of
the democratically mandated Good Friday Agreement. The patience,
courage, discipline and perseverance of Irish Republicans has
brought about a monumental shift in Unionism where they are now
on the verge of working with Sinn Fein on an all-Ireland basis.

"Irish Northern Aid believes that the new political arrangements

should be judged against rapid progress in religious, political
and cultural equality for all the people of the north and calls
for equal rights for the Irish language and an end to unfair
employment practices and funding discrimination against ex-
prisoners and their support groups.

"As we look forward to a new political era, we must learn from
the lessons of the past. Let us never forget that the conflict
arose because democracy had been eroded and injustice and
inequalities were rife in the six counties. The voice of the
people has now been heard and no grouping or party must ever
again be allowed to thwart the democratic wishes of the
electorate. Peace, equality, prosperity and a resolution of an
ancient conflict are now possible in our lifetime. We wish all
the parties well in the days ahead," Doris said.


252 W 38Th Street, Suite 1404, New York, NY 10018
For more information, contact Paul Doris at 212-736-1916


DUP Assembly Member Dawson Dies

DUP assembly member George Dawson has died following a short

Mr Dawson, who was 45, died at home on Monday evening. He leaves
a wife and two children.

The east Antrim MLA, who was also grand master of the Independent
Orange Order, had been tipped as a possible future minister in a
power-sharing executive.

Paying tribute to Mr Dawson, DUP leader Ian Paisley said: "It is
with immense sadness that I learned of the passing of our
esteemed friend and colleague."

Mr Paisley said Mr Dawson's "contribution to the DUP assembly
party was second to none and will be sorely missed".

"As member of the assembly for East Antrim, he worked tirelessly
for his constituents, reaching out across his many spheres in the
best interests of the people of Northern Ireland," he continued.

"His contribution to the business life of the province marked him
out as a real ambassador."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/07 20:55:04 GMT


Assembly Can Deliver Says Hay

[Published: Tuesday 8, May 2007 - 10:36]
By William Allen

Former mayor of Derry William Hay today told how he feels
privileged at being elected Speaker of the Northern Ireland

Speaking ahead of today's historic events at Stormont, Mr Hay
also vowed that he would show no favouritism towards any party.

"This is an honour and a privilege. I will be straight down the
line," pledged the Foyle MLA, who is the first Speaker to be
elected by Assembly members rather than appointed by the
Secretary of State.

"It's essential that the Speaker retains impartiality and
authority. You won't succeed if you don't."

Mr Hay also said he accepts that the Troubles produced many
victims, and that today would have significance for families that
had suffered.

He continued: "How Northern Ireland deals with the past will be a
big issue for the Assembly. I think the Assembly has got to find
a way of dealing with that."

He also said that people expect politicians to deliver.

"We are on trial," he said. "I'd say we have about 18 months to
deliver the difficult decisions that have to be made."

However, Mr Hay was today certain that the Assembly could produce

Speaking about the appointments of his party leader the Rev Ian
Paisley and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness as First Minister and
Deputy First Minister, he said the two men had a good working

He added: "It's a business-like working together, but both men
are working well together."

Born in Donegal, Mr Hay has been a member of Derry City Council
since 1981.

The DUP man has won respect from the nationalist and republican
parties, especially through his involvement in discussions to
secure loyal order parades through Londonderry's Diamond area.

He was Deputy Mayor of Derry in 1992, and Mayor the following

Elected as an MLA for Foyle in 1998, he is a haulage contractor
who has also been a member of the Western Education Board, the
Housing Council, Londonderry Port and Harbour Commissioners, and
the Policing Board.

A former student at Faughan Valley High School in Drumahoe, he
has won the only unionist seat in the Foyle constituency in the
past two Assembly elections.

Mr McGuinness today said Mr Hay had shown himself to be a "very
progressive" politician in Derry.

c Belfast Telegraph


Mother's Grief 'Raw' One Year On

The mother of a County Antrim teenager who died after being
attacked by a gang has spoken of her continuing grief on the
first anniversary of his death.

Michael McIlveen, 15, died a day after the assault in Ballymena.

Five teenagers, including a 15-year-old, have been remanded in
custody charged with his murder.

A local priest said it was poignant his anniversary occurs the
day devolution is to return. His mother, Gina, said she still
felt her son's presence.

On Sunday evening she retraced her son's final steps.

"I was standing there saying prayers and talking into myself,"
she said.

"I was getting the odd wee breeze, but then I felt the coldness
in my legs and I knew Michael was with me."

On Tuesday evening his family will release hundreds of white
balloons in his memory.

'Greatest step'

Local priest Father Paul Simon said: "I think it is a very
positive coincidence.

"It obviously wasn't planned that way and yet it seems striking
that from a tragedy after which a lot has been done to help bring
the communities together.. the greatest step of all the opening
of the assembly.

"Michael's mother is very struck by that as well."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/05/08 06:51:07 GMT


Super-Councils Issue Early Test For Parties

[Published: Tuesday 8, May 2007 - 10:48]
By Noel McAdam

The newly-restored Assembly is facing an early question mark over
another sphere of administration in Northern Ireland - local

With the boundaries for the seven proposed so-called 'super-
councils' published, MLAs will have to decide whether the issue
should go back into the melting-pot.

Three of the parties represented on the power-sharing Executive,
the DUP, SDLP and Ulster Unionists, are opposed to the seven-
strong councils model.

Only Sinn Fein remains in favour of reducing the present 26 local
authorities to seven, in a timetable which is now less than two

Ulster Unionists have already warned that the ambiguity over the
future configuration of councils is hampering efforts to deliver
better public services.

Arnold Hatch, who led the Northern Ireland Local Government
Association's working group on the Review of Public
Administration (RPA), insisted vital areas, including tackling
anti-social behaviour - are being tied up in bureaucracy.

"Regarding RPA proposals, direct rule ministers failed to adopt
the consensus view. Ministers ignored the views of four of the
five main political parties. The result has been uncertainty and
division," the Craigavon councillor said.

"Now that the Northern Ireland Assembly will be up and running in
May it is imperative that RPA issues are resolved as soon as
possible so that the groupings of councils can begin to seriously
collaborate and modernise."

Mr Hatch argued that anti-social behaviour is a major issue at
local level, for example, but too many agencies, including the
Community Safety Partnership, the District Policing Partnership,
the Education and Library Board's Youth Service, the
Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, the Housing Executive, community
groups and social services, have to be involved.

"What we have is a system that creates logjams. We need a
streamlined system that delivers results. Our citizens deserve
more than this, and the sooner there is clarity and direction the
better," Mr Hatch argued.

c Belfast Telegraph


Families Of The Disappeared Look For Clues In The US

[Published: Tuesday 8, May 2007 - 09:33]
By Chris Thornton

Families of the Disappeared have made a special American appeal
for information that could lead to the recovery of the nine men
whose bodies remain missing.

Two relatives of missing men spent most of last week in the US,
hoping to glean new information from expats who may know
something about the disappearances.

"There's just a chance, a hope that we'll jog someone's memory,"
said Anne Morgan, whose brother, Seamus Ruddy, is believed to
have been killed by INLA members in 1985 near Paris.

"We felt we had to target the American immigrants because the
message hadn't got that far."

Anne Morgan and Kevin Megraw, whose brother Brendan was abducted
and killed by the IRA in west Belfast in 1978, went to the US on
behalf of the families.

Five bodies have been recovered since the British and Irish
governments made efforts to find the Disappeared, but at least
nine remain missing.

After meeting prominent Irish-Americans and conducting a series
of radio and newspaper interviews in New York and Boston, they
hope to get new information through a special hotline accessible
in the US.

"We stressed that the families and the commission are really
looking for what may be the last piece of the jigsaw," said Mrs

"New information could lead to the recovery of somebody, so we
were trying to reach the expats who are living there legally or

"We need to get the information now because of all the work the
commission are doing behind the scenes at the minute."

The past two years have seen a renewed effort to recover the
bodies, with the British and Irish governments funding an expert
to work with the Independent Commission for the Location of
Victims' Remains.

That expert has received co-operation from the IRA and INLA -
which could be a key point in encouraging past members to tell
what they know.

"It's really a goodwill gesture we're looking for," said Mrs
Morgan. "Maybe they were there when someone was abducted or being
killed or being buried.

"We stressed that commission would have to be able to contact the
person - but it's all done confidentially and there's no chance
of prosecution.

"We know that a certain amount of trust has to be built up, so
myself and Kieran Megraw gave our own telephone numbers on the

"We're willing to take any leads and information, just to help
this process succeed."

She said they used the example of Jean McConville's recovery to
tell Americans how crucial small bits of information can be.

"When the dig was going ahead for Jean McConville, they had the
jigsaw nearly complete and they dug where they were told to dig,
where it was pointed out to them, but she wasn't there.

"In 2003, she was found half a mile away on another beach.

"All the pieces of the jigsaw fitted the other beach, but it may
have been a question of a right turn or a left turn.

"Jean McConville's recovery highlights what we're looking for now
- it's just more exact information. Maybe someone has just one

Last week, the Government signalled that a new system will be
introduced to grant death certificates for the victims still
missing. Mrs Morgan welcomed the move.

c Belfast Telegraph


Viewpoint: Stormont Returns On Wave Of Goodwill

[Published: Tuesday 8, May 2007 - 09:50]

Even a row over the size of the Chancellor's peace dividend
cannot take away from the significance of today's events at

Two parties from opposite ends of the political spectrum, the DUP
and Sinn Fein, will lead another attempt to establish power-
sharing devolution as the best means of governing a divided

All previous efforts, dating back to 1974, have come to grief,
but the difference this time is that those who were the greatest
enemies of a deal are behind it, and have given their leaders the
benefit of any doubts. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness have a
chance to show that unionists and republicans can combine, in
government, to make Northern Ireland a more prosperous and
peaceful place.

Rightly, they have used the period between striking the deal and
the start of the new Assembly to emphasise the importance of a
generous peace package from Gordon Brown. If they lack sufficient
funds to tackle the infrastructure deficit and to boost
investment, they will be struggling to maintain that devolution
is the answer to Northern Ireland's problems.

So far, negotiations with the Chancellor have yielded
disappointing results, but the pressure must be kept up. Never
will the politicians have more leverage and never will there be
more attention, at Westminster, to the yawning gap between
corporation and fuel tax levels north and south, in the only part
of the UK which borders a Eurozone state.

Sir George Quigley, from his vast experience at the highest
levels of the civil service and banking, knows exactly what is
needed if the present economy - described by the government as
"unsustainable" - is to be transformed. Extra billions can make
up for decades of low public investment, but if there is to be a
better balance in favour of the private sector, only tax rates
that are competitive with the Republic will do it.

There are plenty of arguments why this cannot be done, based on
historical precedent, but Northern Ireland's case is unique. No
other part of the EU is emerging from civil conflict into
partnership between old enemies, and none has an economy so
dependent on public sector jobs.

The battle with the Treasury, and the future Prime Minister, will
continue - made all the harder by Labour's poor election results
- but today's ceremonies will be seen around the world as a
triumph for democratic values. If terrorists can be persuaded to
swap violence for politics, and win public support, their mandate
cannot be ignored, even by their most vehement opponents.

Compromise has been the key to the success, so far, and long may
it continue. There will be difficulties ahead, but never has a
devolved administration been launched with more goodwill -
locally, nationally and internationally - than today's.

c Belfast Telegraph


Opin: How The Sunn Didn't Shine On The 1974 Agreement

[Published: Tuesday 8, May 2007 - 10:43]

As power-sharing and devolution return, Dominic Cunningham looks
back at Sunningdale and points out that the 'bad boys' of 1974
are now poised to take power

Loyalist women wearing Union Jack aprons danced a celebratory jig
on the streets of Belfast when the first power-sharing Executive
at Stormont crashed in the heat of a Protestant rebellion.

The month of May 1974 wrote a dark chapter into the history of
Northern Ireland with the political and economic wounds self-
inflicted during that period taking a generation to heal.

The sea change now being witnessed with former arch enemies Ian
Paisley and Martin McGuinness about to go into government
together quite simply could not have been imagined 33 years ago.

In 1974, Mr Paisley, the DUP leader, and Mr McGuinness, then a
senior member of the Provisional IRA, were the 'bad boys' as far
as that Executive was concerned. Brian Faulkner - the last of six
Stormont Prime Ministers - was appointed Chief Minister in the
new arrangement agreed by the Irish and British governments at
the Sunningdale conference in late 1973.

As leader of the Ulster Unionists, Faulkner agreed to share power
with his nationalist opponents the SDLP, whose leader at the time
was Gerry Fitt. The third partner in this unlikely coalition was
the moderate Alliance Party. From the beginning, Mr Faulkner, who
was forced to resign as Unionist leader, was concerned about the
Council of Ireland enshrined in the Sunningdale Agreement and
subsequent events proved he was unable to 'sell' this part of the
historic deal to an embittered loyalist community.

The continued activities of the Provisional IRA were also cause
for concern among Mr Faulkner's dwindling support among
unionists, both within and outside the Assembly. More than 290
people were killed in 1974. Minutes of the 1974 Executive
meetings reveal just how things have changed in Belfast politics.

"The Chief Minister had made it clear to Mr (Liam) Cosgrave
(Taoiseach) that the apprehension of prominent IRA men like
Martin McGuinness would do more to satisfy NI people than
anything else," the Executive minutes of Tuesday, January 8, 1974

He made these comments during a "lengthy exchange" with the
Taoiseach at a meeting in Dublin and the two ministers discussed
security matters including those in the Republic.

"The Chief Minister also confirmed that the Dublin government
intended to join with us increasingly against the IRA," the
minutes added.

At this meeting the Stormont administration "also discussed Mr
Paisley's threat to deal only with civil servants and not with
the Executive ministers".

But it was the Council of Ireland which incurred most animosity
to the new dispensation and led to chaotic and often violent
scenes on the floor of the Stormont Assembly.

Out on the streets the killings continued unabated and with a new
level of savagery.

As the security and political situations deteriorated, a shadowy
organisation calling itself the Ulster Workers Council warned
that if the Assembly backed Sunningdale at its mid-May meeting
then a general strike would be called.

The Assembly refused to bow in the face of this pressure and the
protest action was launched on May 14. Roads were blocked, output
from power stations was severely restricted, while petrol and oil
supplies were allocated by men in masks.

The British Labour government and in particular the then
Secretary of State, Merlyn Rees, refused to act against those
taking control of the streets and the economy. The leading
organisers fully expected to be arrested at the outset of the
action which they later admitted would have nipped their protest
in the bud.

Harold Wilson, at that time the Downing Street Prime Minister,
was so alarmed at what he saw on the streets of Belfast he later
ordered his civil servants to investigate the possibility of
British withdrawal. Eventually, with the Executive increasingly
isolated and left to their own devices by London and the economy
in meltdown, Faulkner told his ministers on May 28 there was no
alternative to resignation.

In just five months the first initiative to bring Northern
Ireland's two warring tribes together had floundered.

c Belfast Telegraph


Opin: So, Will It Be A Case Of Yes, First Minister?

[Published: Tuesday 8, May 2007 - 09:58]

As Northern Ireland's historic power-sharing Executive gets down
to business, a former head of the Civil Service here, Sir Kenneth
Bloomfield, outlines the challenges facing the new Ministers

When I launched my recent book, A Tragedy of Errors: The
Government and Misgovernment of Northern Ireland, I reflected
that the long title of Northern Ireland's original devolved
constitution, the Government of Ireland Act 1920, spoke in terms
of "peace, order and good government". Now we have, if not yet a
perfect peace, the absence of large-scale terrorist violence, and
with the new attitude to policing adopted by Sinn Fein, the
prospect of general support for the guardians of law and order.

What, then, of 'good government'? Certainly there will be few
among us who regret the ending of direct rule. It has gone on for
far too long; it has become over time patronising in tone; it has
shown little regard on many occasions for local opinion; it has
in recent years entrusted our government to a party which has
neither received nor invited a single vote from the people of
Northern Ireland; and it has enabled Parliament to enact
legislative measures for Northern Ireland after very limited
debate and without the possibility of amendment.

The return of devolution is not in itself an assurance of good
self-government, but it affords us an opportunity to build it.
What, then, are the prospects as this new era opens? A term often
used by students of politics is 'the machinery of government'. As
someone who was a cog in that machinery for some four decades,
and who served single-party Unionist governments, direct rule
administrations and the short-lived power-sharing coalition of
1974, I learned over time that this is a very complex machine. It
will work to the best advantage of the community it serves only
if its several components are 'fit for purpose' and mesh together
to carry us forward in the right direction and at an acceptable

Let us consider, then, the principal components of the new
machinery of government. First, there are the politicians at
Stormont, both those who hold ministerial office and those who
will chair or serve on the several departmental committees. Their
ability to provide us with sound political direction will depend
upon their wider political skills, their suitability for the
specific tasks they have been assigned, and the recognition that
good government at the political level requires a sense of common
purpose, and a willingness to respond constructively to
continuous scrutiny and to accept genuine accountability to the
Assembly and the public.

The inherited structure of departments makes little sense unless
it is seen for what it is; a means of providing an adequate
number of ministerial seats for the diverse political bottoms
seeking to sit upon them. Much work has been done to simplify and
rationalise the organisational arrangements for the health and
education services and for local government.

It remains to be seen whether the patterns favoured by direct
rule ministers will survive reconsideration by a Stormont
Executive. My own bet is that there will be a re-appraisal of the
current proposals for local government areas and boundaries. On
the face of it, similar rigour should be applied to the structure
of central departments. The more of these there are, the more
challenging it becomes to achieve 'joined-up government'.

This is not just a vogue expression. In our contemporary world a
community cannot be offered coherent, strategically-driven
administration without recognising that departments must not
operate as if they were independent fiefdoms, but must co-operate
effectively to pursue common ends.

The necessary co-ordination and common purpose is not always easy
to achieve even within a government formed by a single party,
with a clear common policy and operating through a rational
departmental structure. It may prove a real challenge to achieve
it across an unduly large number of departments, led by ministers
with very different views about means and ends. Nor will there be
the usual ability of a Prime Minister to re-shape his
administration to pursue his own vision of good government.

While these questions of structure are of importance, so too is
the question of the personal qualities of ministers. It is to
imply a statement of fact that the new Executive will include
ministers with no previous experience in government, alongside
others who enjoyed a very limited earlier period in office.

One should not make too much of this comparative inexperience. It
was, after all, what happened at the national level when Labour
returned to power after a lengthy period of Conservative rule.
There can be no doubt that the incoming ministers include
politicians of real and demonstrable executive capability. Others
are more of an enigma. Have they been chosen as suitable to
occupy a particular portfolio or to raise their political profile
with other ends in mind?

Of course, only a minority of Assembly members will hold
Executive office. With all the main parties sharing power, it is
all the more important that back- benchers should take seriously
their role in ensuring accountability.

We do not want an Assembly of cheer-leaders. Members of the
Public Accounts Committee, for example, should leave their
political loyalties at the door of the committee room.
Departmental committees should not hesitate to scrutinise
ministerial proposals without fear or favour, and in turn
ministers should be seen to give real respect to their views and
recommendations. We do not want to foster an 'elected

The politicians will not be the only 'players'. On devolution day
they assume control of a massive civil service machine, and
ultimate responsibility for an even greater number employed in
the other public services.

I expect that many readers base their perception of the
relationship between politicians and civil servants on those
wonderfully funny television comedies, Yes, Minister and Yes,
Prime Minister. Will we, then, see Yes , First Minister being
played out at Stormont? I must say that I see very little
resemblance between the real Ian Paisley and the hapless,
fictional Jim Hacker.

Personally, I have always thought it ridiculous to suppose that
civil servants prefer to work for ministers who can be
manipulated like glove-puppets. They know full well that in the
inevitable battle about priorities and resources it is their
departmental minister who must be their champion in forums not
open to them. It will have to be Ian Paisley and Martin
McGuinness who carry forward the vital dialogue with Gordon Brown
to seek adequate resources to carry Northern Ireland forward
socially and economically.

Yet the nature of relationships between ministers and their civil
servants will be of great importance. It needs to be based upon
mutual respect and a clear understanding of their distinctive
roles as organs of the state. Civil servants need to understand,
and I believe do understand, that the ultimate power to decide in
a democracy must rest with the elected ministers. Their function
is to offer objective and well-informed advice, but once the
minister has decided on the course he or she wishes to pursue,
they must devote all their professional skills and experience to
implementing the ministerial decision.

There is, though, a corollary to the minister's right to decide.
It is the willingness to receive advice, to weigh it carefully
and recognise that it may be based on a much deeper and more-
prolonged exposure to the issue under discussion. Let me now,
more than 16 years into retirement, indulge myself in being a
little indiscreet.

For many years I had regarded Labour as the party of ideology and
the Conservatives as the party of pragmatism. Then Thatcherite
ministers emerged on the scene in Northern Ireland as elsewhere.
In the early days of the first Thatcher government I had begun to
brief one of the new team of Northern Ireland Office ministers on
a particular issue. The new political master stopped me short.
"We don't," he said "want to hear that kind of thing." In no way
are ministers obliged to defer to official views, but they can
sometimes dig a deep hole for themselves if they are unwilling
even to listen.

This historic relationship between ministers and the civil
service has been complicated in recent times by the rise and rise
of 'specialist advisers'.

As far as I know I never met the young gentleman who served Peter
Hain in that capacity, but rumour has it that he behaved from
time to time like the Secretary of State's 'vicar on earth',
treating local civil servants at times as lesser breeds whose
views were of little account. I confess to remaining uneasy about
a growing role for people who exercise power in the shadows in
the absence of either an electoral mandate or success in the
competitive business of entry to the senior ranks of the civil
service. To be close aide and confidant is one thing; to be non-
elected vice-minister is quite another.

So will we see a highly complex machine getting into top gear?
Will it work well, as we all hope and pray? It will be a
confederation of opposites, but so are many successful and
enduring marriages. That endurance flows from an openness to
consider and accommodate the other point of view, to make
concessions, to consider the wider good rather than short-term
gain. May the wheels of government carry us forward to a better

A Tragedy of Errors by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, Liverpool
University Press, œ25

c Belfast Telegraph

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