An Irish Border Poll – learning the lessons of Brexit

Demographic changes and some recent polls have injected an air of optimism, arguably even complacency into the campaign for Irish unity to the extent that its proponents regard it as inevitable within the medium-term. A quick review of the past two years in the United Kingdom however, offers a vivid example of how major constitutional change is not a simple matter, far from it. The problem began with a referendum, posing the simple question: Should the United Kingdom remain a … Read more

The Ghosts of Bonfires past…

I remember back in  the day, probably around Easter 1971, my pal and I threw down two sticks on an area of open ground in Tyndale Gardens in Belfast and said ‘That’s the boney started.’ Other kids probably do the same thing around the same time of year to this day. There were no pallets then and no tyres. We collected waste wood and the ‘big lads’ cut branches off trees in neighbouring Carrs Glen. I often think about that … Read more

The last day of Northern Ireland…

Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings - Edward Carson statue

The recent comment by Arlene Foster that she might leave Northern Ireland would have come to no surprise to anyone raised in the PUL community. The Republic has changed beyond recognition from Dev’s day and Northern republicans have moved on too but the old fear of ‘Doomsday’ remains. Here’s my tongue-in-cheek view of the unionist apocalypse. It was perhaps inevitable the Norther Ireland Assembly would fall (again). Joint First Minister Norman Deeds had proposed an Ulster 21 commemoration to mark … Read more

Trump’s Election Victory One year on…

A year ago, I took a little flak in a Slugger article for suggesting Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 election might not have been won fairly and squarely. It was pointed out that Trump scored a decisive victory by the Electoral College rules, and it is fair to say, (as he did), he would have fought the campaign differently had it depended on winning the popular vote. While the story as yet to fully unravel, we know much more … Read more

Unfinished business – West Belfast Talked Back and I listened…

There was a time, not very long ago when the only reason people from unionist areas would have gone to West Belfast would have been to pick up their car after it had been stolen and abandoned. These days West Belfast is a far less frightening place which welcomes visitors, particularly those who would have formerly shunned it. Féile an Phobail has played an enormous part in changing the reputation of that part of the city and opening it up … Read more

The Rocky Road to Dublin for Northern Nationalists…

Back in March my article ‘Why Unionism Has a Problem’ seemed to strike a chord with the Slugger readership, so it is natural to follow the intrinsic problems of Unionism with another article that reflects the inherent problems facing Nationalism. There is little doubt that recent elections have reinvigorated the idea of Irish unity that had been in the doldrums for a few years. There is a widespread feeling, particularly among young nationalists that a united Ireland is not only … Read more

The French Elections and the Macron phenomenon…

‘Brenda from Bristol’ probably summed up the mood to this year’s general election when stopped in the street by a TV reporter. ‘Oh no, not another one!’ [i] In Northern Ireland we are used to annual or even bi-annual elections but even our electoral activity pales in comparison to the poor people of France who have been called to the polls four times in three months. The French system despite its demands on the electorate has its merits. For a … Read more

Why Unionism has a problem…

Nothing in life is inevitable so the old saying goes, other than death and taxes and maybe Arsenal finishing fourth in the Premier League, so the recent old news that the Catholic population of Northern Ireland may soon reach a voting majority might cause sleepless nights. Of course, Unionists will be quick to point out that substantial numbers of Catholics, including a proportion of SF voters, would not vote for a United Ireland if a referendum were to be held … Read more

Notional 90 seat 2016 Assembly Compared with 2017 results

*Whyte, Nicholas (22 December 2016). “If the 2016 Assembly election had had five seats per constituency…”. AE17 without the background noise As Northern Ireland’s turbulent history takes another turn there is a widespread feeling that AE17 has changed the local political situation profoundly. It was a good result for Sinn Féin, there is no doubt about that, and for Alliance too, but what about the others? The DUP admitted to a bad day at the office and Mike Nesbitt has … Read more

President Trump – Welcome to the post-truth world

 WARNING: the following article may contain elements of truth. The gongs of Big Ben that welcome 2017 will be greeted not but the clinking of glasses and a chorus of Auld Lang Sang, but rather a huge sigh of relief. 2016, the year from hell will finally be behind us. It brought a cull of beloved musicians and artists, Brexit, and now, the rise to power of the Donald. Yes, it’s true, the unthinkable has happened, a man who is … Read more

Neither liberty, equality, nor fraternity

Imagine a woman on a beach on a hot day, perhaps your mother, sister, girlfriend or wife. She doesn’t take the sun well so she doesn’t wear a bathing suit and covers her head with a cloth and her shoulders with a shawl while she sleeps. Imagine four police officers approach her, waken her up, demand she uncover her head and shoulders, then fine her for not exposing enough flesh. That’s close to what happened on a French beach yesterday. … Read more

The past, present and future of Tony Blair

He could have gone down as one of the great Prime Ministers of all time, a man who took over a fractured and beaten political party, won three consecutive elections and as the Prime Minister that brought peace to Northern Ireland. These are enormous achievements for any politician but instead he will be damned as a man who led his country into an unnecessary and illegal war, some allege he is a unrepentant war criminal lacking only a trial and a cell. … Read more

The Good Friday Agreement twenty years on – Why can’t we get over the Troubles?

Sometimes an idea for an article just comes along. I was listening to the radio last week and Dermot Nesbitt, one of the Ulster Unionist negotiators of the Good Friday Agreement, was speaking on Nolan about its 18th anniversary. He pointed out that that when he was a young man, the Second World War had ended eighteen years previously and none of his generation thought about it.  Young people were more interested in Beatlemania than the Battle of Britain and … Read more

A day in the life of a Northern Ireland political junkie…

  The radio alarm goes off – Sonny and Cher are singing, ‘I’ve Got You Babe’. I’ll have none of that cheery Frank Mitchell malarkey and switch the station to Radio Ulster. In Ormeau Avenue, Connor Bradford sits in bow tie and tails – reading the news for the BBC is a serious business after all – ready with some bon mots (en Français naturellement) and Latin dictums to let the Hoi Polloi know their place. With a voice full … Read more

Fairness and Fear in the alternate universe of the Orange Order…

I’ve heard some bizarre things on the Nolan show but the recent interview with Drew Nelson, Grand Secretary of the Orange Order, has got to be in the top five. The discussion centered round a recent Orange Order report, ‘Fairness and Fear’ that outlined the horrors Protestants face in the workplace. As an atheist I object to being called a Protestant’ but I suppose I could be termed part of the wider PUL community the Orange Order frequently claims to … Read more

This time next year we could have Trump in the White House, Boris in Downing Street and be on our way out of the EU…

Closer to home, the border could be reinvigorated providing a bonanza for ‘good’ Republicans to make fortunes out of fuel-smuggling and dumping toxic waste, while not-so good Republicans will celebrate the centenary of the Easter Rising by blowing up as many people as possible. Some of these nightmare scenarios may be the result of self-inflicted wounds. In America, Trump has made racism respectable again. He gets an endorsement from a Kl Klux Klan leader and goes UP (yes, up) in … Read more

Unionists should be careful what they wish for with a Brexit…

So it’s official. Turkeys do vote for an early Christmas. Without even waiting to see what David Cameron brought back from Brussels, the DUP and TUV nailed their colours to the Brexit mast. Both explain their position primarily in monetary terms – the UK pays far more into the EU than it gets back, so we’d be better off out of it. The tax payers of England of course could say that about the UK in general and Northern Ireland … Read more

A wry view of the US presidential candidates….

It seems to have been going on for ever but the truth is, it hasn’t even started yet. I am of course, referring to the greatest political show on earth, the US presidential election. This year’s crop of hopefuls contains demonstrates once again the diversity of America’s millionaire class. In addition to middle-aged white guys, there is an African-American, a Jew, a Latino and a Canadian, who is also a Latino. Why there is even a woman. Let’s take a … Read more

From Bannisters To The Iron Harvest. 1916 and all that…

I saw an unusual tweet a few weeks ago. Someone had posted a picture of a bannister. That seemed strange until I read the caption and discovered the bannister was in a house where James Connolly had once lived. The tweeter expressed pleasure, perhaps awe, at sliding his hand along an object his hero had once used and it got me thinking about our relationship with the past and how objects and places and can make it come to life … Read more