Spotlight investigation vindicates #Nama revelations…

Tonight’s Spotlight special investigation has vindicated what I have said, and stood over, since July 2015. 

On the evening the first blog was published the DUP issued a decree that anyone even mentioning or referencing the existence of my blog would be sued the next morning. This- like all of the other threats of legal action- never materialised.

 That first blog exposed Gareth Robinson as a fixer and also his playboy lifestyle and regular use of the illegal drug- cocaine. 

My blog has exposed those behind Nama ever since July and in September I appeared at the Stormont DFP committee- despite attempts by the Alliance party and DUP to stop me- and provided evidence. That evidence has been vindicated by tonight’s Spotlight. 

I also published information on how Frank Cushanhan contrived with Peter Robinson to swindle Glentoran Football Club whilst pretending to help them. That too was vindicated tonight. 

I wrote a book (The Three Headed Dog) about the scandal and Paul Tweed- acting on behalf of half a dozen of those named including Frank Cushnahan and Peter Robinson, threatened Amazon with a law suit if they did not ban my book. 

The book exposed the golden circle of property developers who had hundreds of millions written off as part of the DUP inspired sweetheart Nama deal and also highlighted the intricate workings of the deal and fixers payments. That third part of the triangle of the Nama scandal was touched upon during tonight’s Spotlight. 

Let’s remember that the BBC also have possession of a letter proving David Watters was seeking his fixers fee and laid claim to all of the £7.5m. There is much more to come, including how the money was to be divided up and how Peter Robinson was to receive his slice of the pie. 

All the denials issued now look foolish. “Scurrilous and unfounded” was how Peter Robinson described my allegations, whilst stating my DFP committee appearance was a “pantomime”. 

Mr Robinson also referred to me as a “village idiot” and the Irish News- who led the way on the story in the mainstream media- as a “rag”. I wonder who the village idiot is now? 

Dethroned First Minister Robinson’s namesake Gavin also dismissed the claims as a “storm in a tea cup”. How foolish must he feel tonight. 

There is no doubt that Peter Robinson’s political career was hastily brought to a close as a result of the Nama revelations. 

How ironic that it was a village idiot, the Irish News and the BBC- all of which he so openly despised- that assisted in bringing it all crashing down. 

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin… Mr Robinson! 

Flags report- Unionism must engage to pocket the positives and mitigate the negatives 

The publication of the ‘Towards a New Understanding’ report into the flying of flags has caused much debate around the practice of flying flags on lampposts.
  
This was perhaps the key and most focused  upon part of the recommendations, although the report did provide some opinion based research- also carried out by Lucid Talk- on the flying of flags from Council buildings. 

For Unionism, it is important that we do not conflate the bones of the document- which are the recommendations and conclusions- with the meat around it, which is simply a collection of opinions and research. It is how that research translates into recommendations that should take our focus. 

The approach of refusing to engage and entrenching ourselves has not served Unionism well in recent years. I believe that we must go on the offensive, engage in every forum and around every table possible and pocket the positives and mitigate the negatives. The alternative is to become further isolated, marginalised and eventually criminalised. 

The flags report recommends in relation to the tradition of flying flags from lampposts that now is not the time for legislation or robust enforcement, but rather a voluntary set of guidelines. This is a positive to be pocketed and built upon. Legislation and/or statutory regulation would only lead to criminalisation.

 As one of the reports authors, Dr Paul Nolan, said at the launch on February 17 2016 “it is never a good idea to criminalise expressions of culture”. 

The report also recommends a voluntary set of guidelines and outlines suggestions around what these guidelines should entail. 

At its core the suggestion that the flying of flags should governed by a voluntary protocol is a good one, although the suggested guidelines would not- in my opinion- be in any way workable or even considered by the section of the Unionist community that takes great pride in flying our flags as part of a cultural expression. 

So what do we do? Option one is to throw the report in the bin. That isolates working class Unionist voices and ensures that the influencers- quite often from an academic perspective- are those from outside our own communities, who as well intentioned as they may be, are effectively imposing solutions from the outside.

Option two is to pocket the positives such as the recommendation that legislation would not be a problem solver but rather a problem maker and mitigating the negatives by adapting the idea of voluntary guidelines into a positive community-led protocol. Use the core suggestion as a staging post in order to build a set of guidelines that is acceptable to the working class Unionist community. 

This means accepting- at its most basic level- the recommendation of voluntary guidelines, but taking ownership of the process and ensuring that these guidelines are community-led. Solutions must come from the community and not be imposed with a top-down approach.

I would encourage a new way of thinking amongst working-class Unionism. A more strategic method of problem solving.

We must be confident in our own message and our ability to articulate that message. We have nothing to fear from engaging in debate and discussion.