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.

‘New IRA’ main suspect for mainland letter bombs

An organisation using a recognised codeword and calling itself simply “the IRA” has called a Northern Irish newspaper to take credit for last week’s letter-bombing campaign. Active but not particularly effective devices were sent to Army and RAF recruiting stations in southern England.

Although ‘dissident’ Republican activity has been on the rise in Ulster for some time, this is one of the first signs of any resumption of Irish terrorism in Great Britain. The ‘New IRA’ were previously linked to another letter bombing campaign last autumn. An anonymous caller told the Irish News that the new campaign will continue “as the IRA sees fit”.

Welsh Conservatives “stronger” after night of the long knives

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies claims that his party will emerge “stronger” and “more united” after dismissing four AMs from his shadow cabinet.

A split has emerged over Davies’ support for the devolution of tax powers to Wales. This stance opposes that of the national Conservative Party, and two of the four AMs have explicitly said that they cannot support a position which opposes that of David Cameron on what is a reserved issue.

This raises questions about the extent to which devolved branches of the party should divert from the main. Autonomy over devolved policy and support for reserved policy seems sensible, but areas like “which powers should be devolved” – a reserved issue that directly pertains to devolution – is a grey area.

Whilst some AMs are supporting Davies, the BBC quotes unnamed ‘senior’ sources claiming he has “no support” on the Welsh Conservative board.

International media respond to Osborne’s currency declaration

An interesting article on the Herald Scotland website rounds up international media reactions to the government’s announcement that the UK will not enter into a currency union with Scotland if it votes for independence.

There is apparently a sharp division between the English-speaking world of the ‘Anglosphere’, which tends towards a supportive or at least understanding stance, and the views of other European papers who appear to almost universally have viewed London as ‘threatening’ Scotland.

The most understandable – yet most over-the-top – reaction came from the Catalan press, who claimed that Osborne’s announcement marked a shift by the UK government to the sort of hard-line position being taken by Madrid against Catalonia. The comparison does not bear even passing scrutiny. The UK government is taking the reasonable line that it must govern in the best interests of its remaining subjects in the event of independence.

In Spain, where no right to secede is conceded by the central government, the anti-secession press has published editorials reminding the army of its constitutional role in guaranteeing Spanish territorial integrity and there is talk of the possibility of trying separatists for treason. Outside the fertile imagination of Margo MacDonald, few people can seriously think the UK response is comparable.

Irish language cuts ‘economic, not political’

Foras na Gaeilge, the body set up after the Good Friday Agreement to support the Irish language, is to cease funding any groups in Northern Ireland as part of a dramatic cutting back of its activities.

The organisation, which currently supports 19 Irish language groups across the island of Ireland, is to reduce that to only six. All six are in the Republic.

The new model for Irish language support was endorsed at the last meeting of the North-South ministerial council by none other than Carál Ní Chuilín, the Sinn Fein Culture Minister in the Northern Ireland executive. Sinn Fein like language provision being provided on an all-Ireland basis – even if it doesn’t appear to cover all of the island.

Their argument that this is a more efficient use of resources and will help reduce overspend n salaries is, naturally, rejected by the organisations losing money. Despite that, the mooted job losses stemming from the measure are given as ‘fifteen’ – a bearable loss, in the face of present economic conditions.

Scottish government mulls islands devolution

The Scottish Government met with representatives of the three island local councils to discuss the prospect of devolution to those territories. The Island Areas Ministerial Working Group wants to bring forward an ‘Islands Act’ in the event of Scottish independence to devolve a range of powers to the islands.

The Northern and Western Isles are quite different politically. The latter returns a Nationalist MP to Westminster and was previously an SNP/Labour marginal, whereas the Northern Isles are amongst the most deeply Liberal territory in the entire kingdom and are historically deeply suspicious of devolution.

There has even been talk of Orkney and Shetland seeking an opt-out of a Scottish ‘Yes’ vote or even demanding the revenues of all North Sea oil in their territorial waters (a lot of it), which might enable them to become what I described as “a cold, rainy version of a Gulf oil sheikhdom.” Offering limited devolution might be a way of the Scottish Government trying to head off that threat – although, as the SNP of all people ought to know, that’s the top of quite a slippery slope.

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