Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Ex-RUC demand Haass not to draw “moral equivalence between police officers and criminals”

The Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association has made a detailed submission to the on-going talks, chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass, whic haim resolve some of the province’s most divisive issues, in which it warns against placing the forces of law and order on the same level as their opponents.

The NIRPOA, which represents thousands of ex-RUC and PSNI personnel, claims that the British government has made concessions regarding the role of bodies charged with examining the past which has served to “to facilitate, often at public expense, a continual campaign of baseless denigration of the members of the RUC George Cross and the PSNI”.

The group maintain that they are not asking for a double standard, and expect alleged crimes by former RUCGC officers to be thoroughly investigated. Rather they wish to prevent the Republican position that the Troubles were a conflict between two morally equivalent sides, rather than a conflict between the rule of law and terrorism, from shaping Haass’ view of Northern Ireland’s past.

The position of the then RUC in the Troubles has long been a source of academic and political debate, to put it mildly. During the Troubles the force sustained one of the highest police casualty rates in the world as it supported the army in attempting to contain what looked at times like a civil war.

Yet despite promising beginnings in 1921 its Catholic recruitment shriveled, and by the Seventies it had come to be viewed by Catholics as a tool of domination – a Protestant militia for a Protestant state. This lack of cross-community consent, so critical to normal civilian policing, led to its replacement by the PSNI in 2001 – one year after the force became the second-ever institutional recipient of the George Cross.

Treasury defines the limits of possible Welsh income tax power

Danny Alexander has outlined the limitations that will be placed on any income tax powers transferred to the Welsh Assembly. David Cameron has indicated that the government is open to devolving certain tax powers subject to a referendum. But according to critics, the limits outlined by Alexander will render such powers a ‘blunt instrument’.

The government has said that it will implement a ‘lock step’ system for Welsh income tax upon devolution. This means that every band will be ‘locked’ in relation to the other bands, and tax cuts or increases will have to apply to every income taxpayer. Alexander’s justification is that this is finding the necessary balance between devolved and central authority, with local politicians setting the tax levels in their area but Westminster coordinating the relationship between different tax bands across the UK. This runs counter to the recommendations of the Silk Commission, established to examine the issue of tax devolution to Wales, which recommended full income tax devolution.

The decision to devolve income tax powers was well received in most quarters, although Plaid Cymru complained that the government should not ‘cherry pick’ elements of the Silk report.

SNP and Conservative MSPs vote against statutory ban on spare-room subsidy evictions

Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone aligned with Nationalist members of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee to block the adoption of a petition which would have imposed a Scotland-wide statutory ban on evicting public housing tenants over the ‘bedroom tax’. The petition has been criticised by housing committees, who argue that without the threat of consequences any such statute would lead to a sharp increase in arrears and “a culture of rent avoidance.”

Despite this the Nationalist opposition appears to have baffled Labour, whose representatives are quick to point out that the Scottish Government already supports councils pursuing a no-eviction policy, albeit on a discretionary basis.

Councils are calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to help them plan ahead by revealing next year’s Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) budget, after applications for DHPs rose by up to 900 per cent in some local authority areas.

Real IRA’s Marian Price on trial over Massereene barracks shooting

Marian McGlinchey (nee Price), a member of the IRA unit that perpetrated the 1973 Old Bailey Bombing, has been brought to trial in Northern Ireland on the charge of providing property for the purposes of terrorism.

The prosecution allege that she was caught on CCTV purchasing a pay-as-you-go mobile phone which was later used to make several anonymous calls to media outlets and other organisations claiming responsibility a Real IRA attack in 2009 in which two soldiers were gunned down as they collected a pizza delivery.

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