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Envoy's nuclear fallout

(Newton Emerson, Irish News)

What does it take to get thrown out of the Orange Order? The Grand Lodge of Ireland, which oddly has no union with its English counterpart, says it would have expelled two Orangemen jailed in Manchester this week for possessing weapons, regalia and a "UVF shrine". However, events in Northern Ireland prove that UVF involvement is no bar to Orange membership – even if you're caught. Now the Grand Lodge of England says it can't expel the UVF men either because it has no central control over its local associations. Still, at least this explains why both organisations are drawn to the Ulster Unionist Party.

***

Conor Murphy has endorsed the PSNI. Dismissing a report into paramilitary crime, published this week by Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, the Sinn Féin MP said: "Where criminality exists it is up to the courts to deal with it." Of course, a criminal case can only be heard in court if the police refer it to the Public Prosecution Service. Mr Murphy does know that, doesn't he?

***

Gerry Adams seems even more confused than Conor Murphy. Addressing a British trade union conference in Dublin this week, the Sinn Féin president thanked the assembled comrades for "supporting the right of Irish people to determine our own future" and also for being "enthusiastic advocates of the Good Friday Agreement". He then asked them "to build a solidarity movement in Britain to help advance the cause of Irish unity." However, that would involve people in Britain determining the future of Ireland – which would be contrary to the Good Friday Agreement.

***

There is an ominous local angle to the North Korean missile test story. Before arriving in Northern Ireland to sort our problems out, US special envoy Mitchell Reiss was the chief American negotiator for nuclear non-proliferation in North Korea. That worked out well, didn't it?

***

Lady Sylvia Hermon is apparently building up to a nuclear explosion of her own. The report that so confused Conor Murphy has only clarified her opposition to Sir Reg Empey's deal with David Ervine, leading her to call once again for an urgent rethink. Lady Sylvia has also asked Secretary of State Peter Hain to meet UVF victim's father Raymond McCord – and Mr Hain has agreed. Back in March, SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell put the same question to Tony Blair but was told this would be "inappropriate" before publication of the Ombudsman's inquiry into the McCord murder. So why is it suddenly appropriate now? Is the government trying to stop something reaching a critical mass?

***

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report was its emphasis on white-collar paramilitary crime, specifically: "the involvement of 'professionals' including accountants, solicitors and estate agents". Which one of our political parties did this provoke into outraged protest? Step forward the Alliance Party, which called it "offensive and highly regrettable". Oh dear, oh dear. When will they realise that the class war is over?

***

The new Northern Ireland division of MI5, which disappointingly won't be known as NI5, will only investigate republicans because loyalists aren't considered a threat to national security. So apparently the security of Northern Ireland is not seen as 'national'. Why haven't unionists complained about this? Oh... I see.

***

The Washington-based Irish American Unity Conference has denounced Peter Hain as "a team player for the DUP". Last year the group's national president, Andrew Somers, dismissed the murder of Robert McCartney as "a British smokescreen". So who does that make him a team player for?

***

NIO officials say the projected cost of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry is £163 million and they have no idea how culture minister Tessa Jowell produced a figure of £400 million. However, the answer to this is obvious. Ms Jowell has clearly rounded the estimate up to £200 million then assumed that final costs will double. Behold the magic of government accounting.

***

Commiserations to the organisers of last weekend's entirely civilised open-air dance party at the Giant's Ring, just outside Belfast, which was apologetically but firmly interrupted by the police at 2am. Frustrated revellers inform this column that next time they'll bring a sofa up and set it on fire. Because then it'll be 'culture', like.

July 9, 2006
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This article appeared first in the July 8, 2006 edition of the Irish News.


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