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About Tom Griffin

Tom Griffin is a Ph.D researcher at the University of Bath and a freelance writer. He is a former Executive Editor of the Irish World. He is the co-author of a forthcoming Public Interest Investigations/Spinwatch report on the Quilliam Foundation.

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Articles by Tom Griffin

This week's editor

En Liang Khong

En Liang Khong is openDemocracy’s assistant editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

DUP risks turning Northern Ireland into an EU condominium

The implications for the collapse of the Northern Irish Assembly this week could be far reaching...

The problem with the Quilliam Foundation

The Quilliam foundation's focus on radical Islam leaves equally dangerous far-right movements under-investigated.

The UK’s pro-Israel lobby in context

The pro-Israel lobby is not only important in the US, but is a transnational phenomenon, fostered by transnational organisations – many headquartered in Israel – and funded in large part by transnational corporate actors.

The conspiracy theory of the peace process is a dangerous myth

In the wake of the historic handshake between the Queen and Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland and a Sinn Féin politician with IRA links in his past, Tom Griffin explores various conspiracy theories which exist regarding the Troubles and the subsequent peace process.

The mystery of IRG Ltd: Britain's former defence secretary and the right-wing lobby

Last week, Britain's defence secretary resigned following the revelation that he was using a friend with close links to right-wing lobbyists as an unofficial foreign envoy. While the government attempts to bury the story, Opposition leader Ed Miliband has a duty to pursue the truth.

David Cameron must remember the lessons of Bloody Sunday

In the aftermath of the riots that swept across England last week, the UK government must not rush to adopt draconian policing tactics.

When conniving is not collusion: The Murder of Rosemary Nelson

Was there state collusion in the killing of Rosemary Nelson, the solicitor who was blown up by loyalists at her home in Lurgan in 1999? Two very different answers to that question were put forward in the Commons this week, following the report of the inquiry into her death

How to defeat the Coalition

There is enough energy in the public's opposition to the cuts and the marketisation of public services to frustrate and split the UK's Coalition government. But this will need a forensic approach.

Mission Creep: How the ACPO empire hyped eco-terrorism

The exposure of an agent raises questions about the policing of climate protests

The military response to direct action, General Kitson's manual

In 1971 a counter-insurgency manual set out an operational response to non-violent direct action protest movements as well as military insurgencies like the Provision IRA in Northern Ireland, drawing on the UK's colonial experience. Today, it holds a surprise for a new reader.

Tuition fees rebellion sparks coalition crisis

While the voting day on tuition fees is fast approaching, a substantial number of Lib Dem MPs have not yet declared their hand. Journalist Tom Griffin has compiled a list of all the Liberal MPs, indicating how they are likely to vote on Thursday.

Does the union need unionism?

It is not clear what unites political unionism in Northern Ireland in its present form.

Northern Ireland Secretary quizzed over dissident contacts

Is the British government talking to dissident republicans?

Covering the conflict: Human rights and journalism in Northern Ireland

Did journalists do enough to defend human rights during the troubles in Northern Ireland? That was a key question in a fascinating debate in Belfast last week under the auspices of Amnesty International and Féile an Phobail.

Bloody Sunday - The Saville verdict on Britain's masacre of the innocents in Northern Ireland

After years of taking years of evidence and an expenditure of nearly £200 million, a British Inquiry has dispassionately concluded that the army paratroopers shot 14 innocent people in 1971 without justification, an event that convinced many Northern Ireland Catholics that war had been declared upon them and they had to take up the armed struggle in self-defense.

Book Review: Voices from the Grave - Two Men's War in Ireland

How do you document the history of a conflict in which illegal organisations are among the central players? Voices from the Grave, by the veteran Northern Ireland correspondent Ed Moloney, is an intriguing attempt to answer that question.

Crash report: Has the left learned the lessons of the financial crisis?

When financial markets collapsed in 2008, it was widely seen as the end of an era dominated by neoliberalism. Is the left making the most of the opportunity to fill the vacuum? That's the question at the heart of After the Crash - re-inventing the the left in Britain, a new e-book available free from Lawrence & Wishart.

The Hatfield House Mystery - Is a pan-unionist alliance on the cards?

It has been a strange month in the politics of Northern Ireland, and last week was no exception

Leaders' troubles could shake devolution in Northern Ireland

It has been a strange couple of weeks in the politics of Northern Ireland. In a striking coincidence, the leaders of both major parties have come forward with revelations about their families that have raised questions about their own conduct.

MPs back change for England

In the dead week between Christmas and New Year, IPPR has sneaked out some interesting survey results that could prove fateful in 2010.

Could the DUP hold the balance of power?

With opinions polls continuing to show tentative signs of a narrowing Conservative lead, talk of a hung parliament is growing. This has a distinctive significance for Northern Ireland, where signs of a political opportunity for local parties will be closely watched.

When will the walls in Belfast come down?

The wall may be down in Berlin, but there are still plenty of them in Belfast.

Government rejects lobbying register

More evidence emerged today our political class is spurning the opportunity for reform provided by the expenses crisis

Referendum rethink - The Liberal Democrats and the future of Scotland

Tom Griffin (London, OK)The SNP may not yet have the votes to get their planned independence referendum through the Scottish Parliament next year, but the proposal is certainly creating waves among their political rivals.

The Liberal Democrats announced yesterday that MSP Ross Finnie is to review their opposition to a referendum and report back to a special session of the party's Scottish conference on 30 October. 

Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott has staunchly opposed a vote up till now, but there was notable pressure for a change of stance from some Scottish activists at the UK Lib Dem conference last month. 

Salmond puts independence on the agenda

Tom Griffin (London, OK): It's now official. The Scottish Government will bring forward plans for a vote on independence in 2010. Alex Salmond announced the Referendum Bill in Holyrood today as the centrepiece of the SNP's new programme for government.

On the face of it, this was something  of an empty gesture, as Salmond's minority government does not have the votes to get the bill through the Scottish Parliament. Yet wise heads like the BBC's Brian Taylor and Slugger's Brian Walker believe there is more to the story than that.

Even if it falls, the referendum bill is likely to keep the constitutional issue on the agenda until the next Holyrood election.

Justice devolved

OurKingdom on Lockerbie and the devolution of justice: see also Gerry Hassan on Lockerbie, justice and the price of devolution and Guy Aitchison on Tory reactions

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Spectator's Alex Massie argues that yesterday's decision on whether to free Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi would have been dealt with by a Scottish official even before devolution. The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg believes it would have been taken by a member of the UK Government.

The two views aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, and either way, Scottish Justice Minister Kenny McAskill's role in releasing the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has shown that the power exercised by Scottish Ministers can have implications of not only UK-wide but international significance.

Splintered Sunrise suggests that the SNP might for once have been happy to defer to Westminster, but that won't have stopped some in the other devolved jurisdictions coveting similar powers.

Plaid Commons leader Elfyn Llwyd called on Tuesday for the Welsh Assembly to be given responsibility for justice. According to the Western Mail's Tomos Livingstone, some Welsh police chiefs would welcome the move.

It's in Northern Ireland that devolution of justice is highest on the agenda, but also most contentious. Nationalists want to see a justice ministry established as soon as possible, while unionists are more wary.

Calman's Catch-22

Tom Griffin (London, OK): Is there a fundamental flaw at the heart of the Calman Commission's  proposals for devolution of tax powers to Scotland?

Economists Jim and Margaret Cuthbert believe the plans would have some perverse effects that could leave Scotland caught in a deflationary trap, as The Scotsman reports: 

the Cuthberts warn that under Calman – set up by Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – growth in Scotland's economy could also disproportionately benefit the Treasury, rather than the Scottish Government, because Holyrood would get to keep only 10p out of every tax band. 
For every 1p cut in income tax, Scotland would need to raise an extra 5 per cent income from the basic tax payer, an extra 7.5 per cent from those in the 40p bracket and an additional 8 per cent from those in the top 50p bracket, which will be brought in next year.

The Herald carries a Labour reaction:

"This is Alice in Wonderland economics. It is right that if the Scottish Parliament used tax-varying powers that would have consequences for the budget of the Scottish Government - that is the point. It's barmy to argue that the Treasury should make up the shortfall."

All the major parties in Scotland would agree that part of the point of devolving tax-raising powers is to strengthen the incentive for the Scottish Government to manage public spending responsibly and to grow the Scottish economy. If the Cuthberts are right, Calman may not achieve this. They foresee circumstances where tax cuts could boost the Scottish economy and swell UK Treasury receipts yet leave Scottish finances worse off. Conversely, they think Holyrood might well be forced to raise taxes at the expense of economic growth to maintain revenues.

The Cuthberts argue that these effects can be avoided if the Scottish Government receives a fixed percentage of all income tax in Scotland, on the model of a revenue-sharing system currently used in Canada.

That would mean that while decisions made at Westminster would continue to affect Holyrood's revenue,  Holyrood's decisions would also start to have an impact on Westminster's revenue from Scotland:

Successful operation of such a system would require that the UK and devolved governments are willing to operate in a collegiate manner – being appreciative of, and respecting, the impact that their own actions will have on the revenues of the other parties. The implication is that a successful tax sharing system would have to involve a more federal way of working than is the current practice in the UK. It would be very unfortunate if the Calman Commission had been forced towards its flawed proposals on tax sharing because it was unwilling to countenance the implication that a proper system of tax sharing would inevitably involve a more federal aspect to the operation of the UK constitution.
The Cuthbert's open letter to the Calman Commission is available as a word file, along with some other very interesting papers, from their website.
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