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Jimmy McIlroy obituary

Elegant Burnley inside-forward who was a creative force in the remarkable Northern Ireland side of the 1950s

The footballer Jimmy McIlroy, who has died aged 86, was an elegant cornerstone of Burnley’s First Division title-winning side of the late 1950s and one of Northern Ireland’s greatest internationals.

A perfectly balanced, highly intelligent inside-forward with masterly ball control and an ability to make the telling pass, McIlroy was quick enough on the field when he needed to be. But vulgar haste was anathema to him. He was capable of holding and shielding the ball until the right alternative showed itself, and he could beat his man with elegance and ease.

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Published on 20 August 2018 | 12:12 pm

'Hate crime': Belfast politician decries ‘anti-Protestant’ poster

DUP councillor Graham Craig says poster, which refers to killing Catholics, is ‘offensive and derogatory’

A poster of a brain which features slogans such as “Save Ulster from Sodomy” and “Fuck the Pope” has outraged a Belfast politician.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor Graham Craig said the poster, which has been erected in Belfast city centre, is “anti-Protestant ... offensive and derogatory”.

Related: Orange Order: Protestants told not to use ‘RIP’ as it is Catholic superstition

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Published on 18 August 2018 | 2:45 am

NI prisons chief condemns bonfire of murdered officers' names

Police say lighting of fire in Bogside area of Derry is being treated as a hate crime

The head of the Prison Service in Northern Ireland has condemned the “disgraceful” decision to light a bonfire containing the names of murdered officers.

A pyre set alight on Wednesday evening in the Bogside area of Derry included references to late police officers Ronan Kerr and Stephen Carroll and prison officers David Black and Adrian Ismay.

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Published on 16 August 2018 | 2:45 pm

The Guardian view on Argentina and abortion: a setback, but not the end | Editorial

The narrow defeat of an attempt to legalise abortion has disappointed campaigners. But women worldwide will continue to press for their rights and their safety

The Argentinian senate’s rejection of a bill legalising abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy is a cruel disappointment for millions of its citizens. The legislation had already been passed by the lower house, and Amnesty International said 60% of the public backed it. Feminists blamed pressure from the Catholic church; Pope Francis made clear his opposition to any liberalisation in his homeland or elsewhere.

Some had taken victory in Ireland this May as a harbinger of broader change, though it has yet to have a direct impact in the most obvious place: Northern Ireland, where abortion rights remain tightly restricted and must be reformed. One of the potent arguments which helped to swing the Irish referendum towards resounding support for relaxing its near-total ban was not of morality or ideology, but of fact. Abortion restrictions do not stop abortions: they merely make them harder and very often more dangerous for women. Indeed, one study suggests that abortion rates are slightly higher for countries with restrictive laws.

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Published on 9 August 2018 | 5:35 pm

DUP's Ian Paisley faces recall from parliament

Petition aims to oust MP who failed to register hospitality from Sri Lankan government

The Democratic Unionist party MP Ian Paisley is facing the first parliamentary recall petition since legislation was introduced to allow voters to oust misbehaving politicians.

Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days after acting as a “paid advocate” for Sri Lanka and lobbying on its behalf, while failing to register that the country’s government had paid for his family to go on holiday twice.

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Published on 8 August 2018 | 7:45 am

Disabled man forced to miss his flight over wheelchair repair kit

Belfast airport security refused to let Steve Smithers carry spanners on flight to London

A disabled man travelling from Belfast to London to visit his sick father missed his flight when airport security refused to allow him to carry his wheelchair repair kit.

Belfast international airport has apologised to Steve Smithers, 48, who was told his repair kit, which contained several spanners and a wheel nut and which is essential to adjust his chair, was a security risk.

@belfastairport - Heard of Equalities Act? guard today prevented disabled man from visiting elderly father with cancer. Told passenger too late to check into hold, not possible for crew to store & security risk that man paralysed from chest down would try to dismantle theplane! pic.twitter.com/wrXM9HhblY

Related: Britain’s treatment of disabled people reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale | Frances Ryan

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Published on 7 August 2018 | 12:34 pm

Petition to remove MP Ian Paisley in North Antrim criticised

Politicians censure ‘totally inadequate’ number of venues and pressure on postal votes

The electoral office in Northern Ireland has been accused of limiting the number of venues where North Antrim voters can sign a petition to remove Ian Paisley as an MP.

Legislation allows for up to 10 centres to be set up in the constituency where a historic recall petition – which could oust the suspended Democratic Unionist party MP from his seat and force a byelection - can be signed over a six-week period.

Related: The Guardian view on Ian Paisley’s suspension: between a rock and a hard place | Editorial

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Published on 4 August 2018 | 9:00 am

Army chief defends British soldiers over Northern Ireland

Gen Sir Nick Carter says he will stand by veterans facing ‘vexatious claims’ relating to the Troubles

The new chief of the defence staff, Gen Sir Nick Carter, vowed to fight against sweeping moves to prosecute British soldiers over their role in Northern Ireland.

He said individual soldiers involved in wrongdoing could not expect immunity but he was opposed to veterans being pursued by people with “vexatious claims”. He added: “That will not happen on my watch. Absolutely not.”

Related: British army knew of IRA unit before it took the 'disappeared'

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Published on 2 August 2018 | 11:01 pm

Man arrested in Antrim over 1985 killing of exiled politician

77-year-old held in connection with shooting of Seychelles’ Gérard Hoarau in London

A 77-year-old man has been arrested in Northern Ireland in connection with the unsolved killing of an exiled Seychelles politician in north London in the 1980s.

Gérard Hoarau, an opposition leader in the Indian Ocean archipelago, was shot a number of times with a Sterling sub-machine gun on the doorstep of his home in Edgware on 29 November 1985.

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Published on 2 August 2018 | 6:32 pm

Electoral Commission drops investigation into DUP over Brexit spending

Democratic Unionist party faced allegations of breaching spending rules in its pro-Brexit campaign

The Electoral Commission will not investigate the Democratic Unionist party over claims it coordinated its Brexit referendum campaign spending with Vote Leave in order to break legal spending limits.

The Northern Irish party, which props up Theresa May’s government in the Commons, had faced a series of allegations about its spending during the 2016 EU referendum, after it spent hundreds of thousands of pounds campaigning to leave the bloc.

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Published on 2 August 2018 | 4:41 pm

UK's Brexit proposals threaten future of EU, says Barnier

Article by EU negotiator seen as rebuff to UK efforts to persuade individual leaders to back its vision

Michel Barnier has launched his own appeal for hearts and minds in Europe by warning that Theresa May’s Brexit proposals, put forward in the UK government’s recent white paper, pose a threat to the future of the European single market.

Related: Brexit is direct result of austerity and cuts like bedroom tax, research suggests - Politics live

Related: German sources deny Brexit deal offer amid warning from pro-EU camp

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Published on 2 August 2018 | 2:15 pm

Man accused of identifying rugby rape case woman to be prosecuted

Man allegedly revealed identity of complainant in Ulster players’ trial

A man accused of revealing the identity of the woman at the centre of a high-profile rugby rape trial on social media is to be prosecuted.

The Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland said the man, who has not been named, was to face a charge of breaching the lifetime ban on reporting the identity of an alleged victim. He faces a fine of up to £5,000 if convicted.

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Published on 1 August 2018 | 11:49 am

The Guardian view on Ian Paisley’s suspension: between a rock and a hard place | Editorial

The DUP MP’s conduct has been sleazy. He should be punished. But the voters may back him

Angry Birds, vuvuzelas and Nick Clegg all feature among the temporarily fashionable fads of 2010 that have failed to maintain their popularity over time. Recall of MPs may prove to be another. In the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal, the recall proposal won wide public backing. Promoted by, among others, Douglas Carswell and Zac Goldsmith, it argued that miscreant MPs should be recalled from Westminster if enough voters wanted to sack them. In the 2010 election, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats committed themselves to MP recall, and a version of the measure quickly found its way into the coalition agreement. It was eventually made law in the shape of the Recall of MPs Act 2015.

But the recall law has remained unused ever since. Now, however, it has been shaken from its slumbers by the suspension from Westminster of the DUP MP for North Antrim, Ian Paisley. Mr Paisley was suspended after the parliamentary standards committee found him guilty of “serious misconduct”. He had failed to declare two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government in 2013. He had then breached rules on paid advocacy by publicly pressing the UK government to oppose UN investigations into human rights violations by the Sri Lankan authorities. Last week, MPs voted that Mr Paisley’s conduct has brought parliament into disrepute. They suspended him for 30 sitting days from 4 September – a record ban in modern times.

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Published on 30 July 2018 | 5:26 pm

Camp Bestival shuts down as rain and strong winds break heatwave

Belfast gets a month’s rain in hours as mercury falls across much of UK, albeit temporarily

The UK’s heatwave has been abruptly interrupted by heavy rain and high winds, with the music festival Camp Bestival forced to shut down because of the weather.

With a sharp drop in temperatures and stormy conditions across much of the country, the festival closed down its main stages because of safety concerns. In a statement posted on social media organisers said that they were “utterly devastated and heartbroken” by the situation. The campsites remained open, but attendees said tents had been flooded or blown away.

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Published on 29 July 2018 | 2:06 pm

I don't think no-deal Brexit is likely, says Ireland's deputy PM

After talks with ministers in London, Simon Coveney says UK needs to show flexibility

Too many people are “talking up inappropriately” the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit, Ireland’s deputy prime minister has said after talks with ministers in London, as Theresa May said people should not be worried by ongoing planning for such an event.

Simon Coveney, who is foreign minister as well as being Leo Varadkar’s number two, said people needed to drop the “tough stance” of almost welcoming no deal, saying it was now up to the UK to show flexibility in its talks.

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Published on 25 July 2018 | 1:13 pm

John Shirley obituary

Journalist admired for his coverage of the Falklands war who worked for ITV, the Sunday Times, the Observer and the Guardian

The journalist John Shirley, who has died aged 74 after suffering from cancer, was highly effective and versatile in areas calling for an in-depth approach – current affairs television and the Sunday press. His qualities of curiosity, tenacity and an ability to explain clearly first became evident to me in 1968 in the American deep south, when he was the researcher for a documentary for the ITV series This Week, about the populist governor of Alabama, George Wallace. It was during this period that he met Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Stokely Carmichael – encounters that inspired him throughout his life.

John shared a Reporter of the Year award for his coverage in the Sunday Times of the Brixton riots of 1981, near his home in south London, and the following year won a European award for news photography of the Falklands war, thousands of miles away. One of his most graphic memories was of being asked to take a picture of the marines storming up a Falklands beach: he was suddenly aware that the only human beings behind him were the Argentinian enemy.

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Published on 24 July 2018 | 12:40 pm

Will Theresa May finally stand up to the DUP and help restore Stormont? | Elisha McCallion

The Tory-DUP pact has undermined attempts to rebuild power-sharing. On Wednesday, May has the chance to put this right

Theresa May’s visit to Ireland last week, when she provocatively reiterated her intention to scrap her commitments to the EU and Ireland, was further evidence of the toxic impact that her party’s pact with the DUP is having on the political process and the lives of ordinary citizens.

And when she in effect binned her own Chequers proposals in order to placate the Democratic Unionist party and their Brexiter allies, the people of Britain got a taste of what citizens in the north have been enduring for years. They saw what happens when political self-preservation trumps the rights of citizens and even the democratic process itself. It doesn’t matter what is right. It doesn’t matter what you voted for. The only thing that matters is clinging to power and giving the DUP what it wants in order to do so.

These are rights Theresa ​May championed for citizens in Britain, but apparently people in the ​​north need not apply

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Published on 23 July 2018 | 12:46 pm

Army admits: we failed cadets left stranded on mountains

Report says Mourne Mountains expedition in Northern Ireland was a ‘near miss’

Children as young as 12 were marooned on mountains in treacherous conditions with inadequate supervision and clothing after a series of failures by expedition organisers, documents seen by the Observer reveal.

More than 70 children from Cleveland army cadet force, some taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh awards programme, were walking across Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains last August when the weather turned, leaving them isolated and exposed to the elements. Eight had to be stretchered off the mountain by the emergency services.

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Published on 22 July 2018 | 5:00 am

Where do I stand on Ireland? That’s a difficult question | Michael Hughes

Being a child of ‘the border’ means that my allegiances can never be clear cut

Arriving at Heathrow from Belfast a couple of years ago, an entire planeload of us were mistakenly directed to international arrivals. When we realised the mistake and turned to step back through and collect our bags, we were barred by a distressed official. The trouble was, he said, we had now left the country. We couldn’t just wander back in.

So there we stood, for most of an hour, watching through the open door as our bags trundled mournfully around on the carousel, while the staff tracked down an immigration officer to set up a temporary border post and let us back into the UK. And much as I scowled and fumed, it never occurred to me to ignore this jobsworth and step back home through that open door. I totally got it. The invisible border he had conjured out of nothing was absolutely real to me.

Even at the height of the conflict, the crossing itself wasn’t always taken seriously

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Published on 22 July 2018 | 5:00 am

Rise in women travelling from Northern Ireland to England for abortions

Campaigners say having different abortion laws on either side of Irish border breaches Good Friday agreement

The number of women travelling from Northern Ireland to have an abortion in England has jumped dramatically since the government set up a special hotline in March.

A total of 342 women and girls – including at least one 12-year-old – went to England for a termination through the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) in the three months since March: a significant increase on the 190 women who travelled to use the same service in the previous nine months.

Related: Abortion campaigners target Sajid Javid over Northern Ireland

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Published on 21 July 2018 | 5:02 pm

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