Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer.
US diplomat blames unionists and the British Government for Ulster talks collapse
Richard Haas, the American diplomat who chaired wide-ranging but ultimately largely unsuccessful talks on flags, parading, and the past, has laid the lion’s share of the blame at the feet of the unionist parties and the British Government, even going so far as to compare the situation to the end of apartheid South Africa.
According to Haas: “Those who held the preponderance of power – and essentially that would be more the unionists backed by the British Government – needed to be willing to meet others at least halfway, and as of last December they were not”.
He went on to compare the situation to that of South Africa, where FW de Clerk and the National Party “understood that the future of his country meant them giving up advantaged positions”. Westminster and the unionist parties apparently failed to live up to this high standard.
Cameron was prepared to resign over Scottish independence
The Daily Telegraph have produced a fascinating “long read” insight into the final hundred days of the pro-Union Better Together campaign – entitled, with tragic accuracy, “How the Union was almost lost”.
It’s well worth the read – although I say this as someone who has the “Twelve Days in May” audiobook on his phone so I concede that not everyone may find political procedure so engrossing.
In addition to the headline fact above, other interesting revelations include the full roles played by Labour figures like Alastair Campbell and Gordon Brown, and the fact that there was a “banned list” of senior Conservatives – including Edinburgh-born Iain Duncan Smith – who were not allowed to campaign.
Welsh Conservatives condemn councils meeting behind closed doors
The Tories have criticised a large number of Welsh councils for the frequency with which they bar the public from their deliberations.
According to figures released by the party, Anglesey Council excluded the public from at least one agenda item at fully 71 per cent of their meetings in 2013-14. Fourteen other councils excluded the public less frequently, with figures ranging from 43 per cent in Wrexham to just six per cent in Merthyr Tydfil. Seven councils did not exclude the public from a single agenda item in the entire period.
Janet Finch-Saunders, Conservative Shadow Minister for Local Government, acknowledged that some decisions needed to be taken in private but claimed that some councils appeared to be making excessive use of this power “to hide decision-making from the public”.
It was improbable that Anglesey had needed to go into closed session so often when other councils made use of the privilege rarely or never, she added.
Council officers maintain that closed session is only employed when legally necessary, and the Welsh Government make clear that operating a closed session without legal justification is illegal.
Adams to stand again as leader of Sinn Fein
Gerry Adams, member of the Irish parliament and former Westminster MP, has announced his intention to re-stand as leader of Sinn Fein. This will be the 32nd time Adams has allowed his name to go forward since he first took the leadership in 1983.
Now a pensioner, Adams has been embroiled in scandal in recent times, not least two child abuse cases (one of which involved his paedophile brother).
Most recently he has been criticised for his handling of the alleged rape of West Belfast woman Mairia Cahill by a man believed to have been in the IRA at the time.
Warhammer battle leads to resignation of entire SNP council group leadership
The leader of the Nationalist group on South Ayrshire council has resigned, after coming under fire for being caught war gaming instead of working.
Councillor Douglas Campbell has tendered his resignation for what the Ayr Advertiser describes as “health” reasons (their scare quotes), but has been under pressure ever since he was seen playing Warhammer at a local Games Workshop store during a controversial council vote.
Councillors were reportedly “stunned” by the swiftly-following resignation of his deputy, Cllr Nan McFarlane, who said that after reflecting on Campbell’s departure she felt the Nationalist leadership needed to “refresh”. This leaves the SNP group leaderless for the time being.
State papers release lends fresh insight into Thatcher’s handling of Northern Ireland
The Belfast papers are awash with stories from the latest release of state papers from the 1980s regarding Northern Ireland.
Amongst the details included in the papers was that the British Government seriously underestimated the resistance it would encounter from unionists over the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement. Whilst Irish Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald warned the Prime Minister in dire terms that without visible concessions Sinn Fein might drag the entire island into civil war, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) was confident that the unionists were “manageable”.
Instead hard-line unionists such as Jim Allister, then of the DUP and now leader and sole MLA of the Traditional Unionist Voice, were judged by one NIO official to be entirely sanguine about the prospect of a fresh collapse of devolution.
Other details include the wary attitude of Thatcher’s press team to the Northern Irish media and the Prime Minister’s determined harassment of Ministry of Defence officials over the poor state of military footwear.