Archive | Essays

Have [or how] the DUP made a United Ireland more likely?

Fintan O’Toole seems to think so. He argues in his column in the Irish Times that the party’s shady dealings – the Iris Robinson affair, the NAMA scandal and the Cash for Ash debacle – make the DUP look like Fianna Fáíl’s northern branch. While the ‘Brexit spree’ gambled the future of NI within the more…

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Are women making their mark in political leadership?

Regardless of whether you agree with their politics or not, the appointment of Michele O’Neill as Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland should be welcomed. Northern Ireland, potentially, could have female First and Deputy First Ministers. Of course that depends on how votes are cast on 2 March, however we now have women leading our more…

Light not heat should come as a result of RHI scandal

As the clamour increases for the rolling of heads, even from those who find themselves within the proverbial glasshouse, it’s important to see what can be salvaged from the mess which is rapidly escalating on the Hill of Stormont.    The disintegration is underlined by the bellicose line from Arlene Foster who is trying to more…

Cavalier attitude to EC State Aid decision on RHI could save the day

The comedy of errors that is the Northern Ireland Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme may be about to take yet another strange twist. And at last there may be some good news for the tax payer. Earlier this week when I tweeted an alert to the EC’s decision on State Aid (SA.34140 (2012/N) for the Northern Ireland more…

Local Environmentalists Celebrate Activism to Mark International Human Rights Day

An emergent network of environmentalists gathered at the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast Saturday to mark International Human Rights Day. Four stories of activist achievement, focused on the human right to safe drinking water, were shared by activists engaged in campaigns to: “Save Our Sperrins” (SOS) from plans by the Canadian Gold-mining company, Dalradian Resources, more…

The NHS prescription: £22 billion of efficiency savings

At what point can an organisation which has undergone many years of reorganisations and “efficiency savings” actually create any more efficiencies and still comply with the regulatory regime? Leave aside the arguments about the £350 million lie of the Leave campaign, because it’s not actually relevant until Brexit is complete.  Even if every penny we more…

City council recommends no free Christmas parking

This is a rare post from myself that is almost entirely from the perspective of being a motorist. As Belfast City Council’s Growth and Regeneration committee recommends that they do not offer free parking after 6pm or on Saturdays coming up to Christmas, my first reaction is that in fact we are only really discussing more…

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The cautionary tale of Pat Hickey: How the Olympics Got Seduced by Money, and Lost its Way

Ireland and Europe’s most senior Olympic official sits arrested in Rio, on charges of ticket scalping.   Meanwhile, pizza restaurants and small clothing shops receive threatening letters from the Olympics, telling them not to tweet the Games That Must Not Be Named.  (Lawyers say ‘I don’t think that’s what the law says’.) It’s all a sign of more…

Robin Chichester Clarke was the last of the gentry that treated government as part of the family business.

Robin Chichester -Clarke, the last of the old unionist gentry to hold office in either Stormont or Westminster,  died a fortnight ago at home in Norfolk at the age of 88.  His elder brother Jimmy, later Lord Moyola, (familiarly known as  “Chi-Chi,” after a notably  infertile panda) was Northern Ireland’s penultimate  prime minister in the darkening more…

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Barbers, Car Dealers, Printers: The “Olympic” Small Businesses Around Ireland and the World, and How They’re Watching Rio

DUBLIN.  When Farrell O’Boy launched his Olympic Cars in Maynooth, Co. Kildare, he thought he’d chosen ‘a strong name, and people would remember it’, says Danny McCabe, today its sales manager. Across the Irish Sea, Antonio Leto had emigrated from Sicily and worked as a barber when he set up his own shop, Olympic Barbers, more…

An answer to Rentoul. Referendums like terrorism can shape events, but not always in the ways expected

Alerted by Mick on the thoughts on referendums by the Independent’s political commentator John Rentoul, I took in his part 2 “Should Referendums be banned?” This is a rhetorical question which is really in  support of Rentoul’s  contention  that they make very little difference to the course of political  events. His pieces prompted my following more…

The New BrexitSec

Trade & Brexit: Where next?

Among the changes in Prime Minister May’s post-referendum reshuffle David Davis has now been appointed new ‘Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union’ or BrexitSec as I’m growing used to calling him. He caused a bit of a stir last Monday when he appeared not to know that the Republic of Ireland was no more…

Reflections on Johnson and Davis

As we learn that we have a new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (but not, as I write, knowing who), I wanted to reflect on the two most controversial appointments to Theresa May’s cabinet. Either the appointment of Boris Johnson and David Davis as Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for Brexit respectively is more…

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Listening to the quiet voices of The Somme

As a child I was forever fascinated by a random collection of oul ‘things’ in a rarely-approached cupboard at home. It was the sort of place where unflattering school reports and old medical cards lay alongside broken spectacles and stringless yoyos, the theory being that they might some day be read, repaired or resurrected. There more…

After Brexit: the options

As time went on, speculation reached fever pitch. The internet was full of crazy theories about developments that would overturn everything we knew, seemingly convincing timelines of events that would soon unfold, and ingenious analyses proving that things were either nowhere near as bad as they seemed, or much worse than anyone imagined. I am more…

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BREXIT: A possible way forward

This is something of a work in progress, for which I’m extremely grateful for thoughts. A fantasy PM would use Thursday’s result to get a programme for savage EU reform and a two-circle Europe, get a UK political mandate for that, then use it to checkmate both Juncker and Nicola.  Here’s how: First, we need to keep mind more…

Devolved legislatures and the EU

Devolved legislatures and the EU

Jim Fitzpatrick drew our attention to an interesting possibility the other day: (extract from Chapter 7 of The process of withdrawing from the European Union) The key issue here is the competency of Westminster to amend the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Scotland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006 (and 1998 to more…