“…on which Mr Hazzard in purporting to be offended by a long-standing informational map would do well to reflect.”

Or, catch yourself on!  From the Belfast Telegraph, the operator of the national railway network in Ireland, Iarnród Éireann, with a demonstration of how to respond to contrived mischief-making by a member of the UK parliament, in this case Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard, MP.  From the Belfast Telegraph report  A spokesman for Irish Rail said the company had worked “through good and bad times” to provide services between Northern Ireland and the Republic, including “the extraordinarily challenging era when sectarian … Read more

Review of Archbishop Eames’ Unfinished Search – Will Another Opportunity to Address the Past Slip through our Hands?

‘Despite attempts to revise or rewrite history, the complexities of the legacy of this period indicate, if nothing else, that to find a common ground for the future will be a more difficult task than bringing an end to violence. To win the peace in Northern Ireland is one thing. To make it last and to transform it into an accepted way of life is by far the greatest mountain to climb.’ — Archbishop Robin Eames, Unfinished Search, p. 136 Those … Read more

“Not allowing people to speak or vote according to their conscience goes totally against republicanism, because without freedom of conscience there isn’t any freedom”

Sinn Féin’s continued adherence to the practice of democratic centralism, even on an issue that most political parties regard as a matter of individual conscience, has seen the party’s vice-president on the attack [best form of defence – Ed], and the resignation of Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan [“disappointing but not surprising” – Ed].  Now the former Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly, who resigned from the party in February this year over its increasingly pro-choice position, and his wife, Anne … Read more

A warning to Leo from his base on his drift towards Mary Lou and Sinn Fein…

I didn’t get to share this piece from Sarah Carey in The Times, Ireland edition yesterday. It’s a stern warning to Leo Varadkar over his political flirtation with Mary Lou McDonald from a columnist from a committed FG family… The omens indicated something so preposterous and outlandish that I ignored them for too long, but no longer. Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Féin leader, says that she wants to form a coalition government with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Not on … Read more

The Union in Revolutionary Times

There may never be a United Ireland. But, equally, there could be one very soon. Historical inevitability is a fallacy best left to ageing Marxist university lecturers. So ubiquitous is forecasting the fate of Northern Ireland through the glacial process of demographic change, we forget that in revolutionary times, previously robust assumptions can crumble in a day. The night the Berlin Wall was accidentally opened, a panel discussion on West German TV discussed the stunning events of the previous hours … Read more

Happy Birthday NHS: What changes are necessary, and how might we make them?

Tonight’s Slugger event is highly focused on health policy, for which we make no apologies. One poor feature of devolution in Northern Ireland is its retreat from policy in favour of populism. However, this is also a wider feature of western democracy. About a year before the last but one UK general election, this animated conversation between Professor John Kay and Steve Richards illustrates the exact same casual (ie, uncosted) retreat taking place elsewhere: In Northern Ireland (as elsewhere), there … Read more

In true Bloomsday style, “Samuel Beckett got outrageously drunk…”

If you don’t know by now, it’s tradition!  [We know… – Ed]. Those of a sensitive disposition are duly warned, once again, that James Joyce enjoys the language in all its fecund nuttiness. And another reminder of a brief history of the day, from the Guardian, which includes this great 1924 quote from Joyce on Ulysses – “I have to convince myself that I wrote that book. I used to be able to talk intelligently about it.” Joyce’s last Bloomsday would take place on 16 June 1940, when the author was … Read more

Individual conscience may make implementing abortion reform as controversial as deciding on the principle

From the Asher’s case to abortion, individual conscience and the prerogatives of devolution greatly complicate reform beyond a straightforward appeal to human rights. Secretary of state Karen Bradley has been attacked for hypocrisy over personally supporting abortion reform while resting on her belief that the Northern Ireland public overwhelmingly support action by a Stormont that is non-sitting and in which there probably isn’t a majority in favour of reform anyway. She knows resting on constitutional propriety gets her off even … Read more

Why is the Pope not coming North? Are the disappointed faithful too frightened to ask and did the bishops fail to press their case?

The ways of the Vatican are as inscrutable as those of the Chinese Communist party. Indeed they vie with the on-off – on character of the Trump- Kim Jong -un meeting in Singapore. Only a couple of days ago senior Irish Catholics were still holding out hopes that the Pope might pop up to Armagh. Then after his itinerary was announced, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said that final confirmation had come from the Vatican that the pontiff will not … Read more

Would the DUP be any happier with a backstop, staying in the single market?

So it’s October then. The UK will fail to present its withdrawal plan to the EU summit at the end of the month and its backstop, handed in only after a cabinet crisis was averted on Thursday, would still lead to a hard border in Ireland. Lurking in the background may still be the option of some differentiation in NI’s status from GB. Such is the peculiar course of these negotiations, that the EU is mildly encouraged by the state … Read more

Processions Belfast – Pro-Choice Groups Bring Political Energy to a Commemorative Art Project

As the participants for the Belfast event of the UK-wide art project Processions gathered at Titanic Slipway yesterday, it was clear that something exciting was happening. Thousands of women were mingling, hugging, photographing each other’s banners, even dancing a little in an atmosphere of celebration and fun. Processions is a living sculpture artwork, that celebrated one hundred years of votes for women. In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave the first British women the right to vote and … Read more

Peter Robinson was talking about much more than a border poll. The Assembly must become boycott proof

It was Peter Robinson “pulling the pin out of the grenade” and proposing  “generational” border polls that attracted most attention. But he had a good deal more to say at Queen’s that was  more important or at least more urgent.  He kept it lofty, generalised and above all brief, to avoid getting drawn into detail or appearing to lecture his successors. But his meaning is pretty clear . While he had to say he was optimistic about the future, he … Read more

Boris Johnson and the “pure millennium bug stuff”

I’m really glad Boris Johnson, in private remarks, chose to draw a comparison between the Brexit process and the Millennium Bug. I’ve often thought this comparison was apt and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs’ comments have given me a great excuse to write about my own short experiences dealing with the bug. I was working at the HQ of a large Irish financial institution between the summers of 1999 and 2000 as part of my placement … Read more

The Churches are backing themselves into a corner of Northern Ireland’s narrow ground. The laity should take over

Following on from the testimony of  Gerry Lynch and Elizabeth Nelson, it’s  hardly a surprise that the continuing revolution in faith and morals over abortion and  LGBT rights won elsewhere but not here,  is splitting the churches. True to ancient form, the leaderships of the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Churches are treating what is actually a clash of moralities as challenges to authority.  The Catholics appeal to canon law, the Presbyterians to the Bible. And that is still that. For … Read more

Well Taoiseach, Féile an Phobail is not “simply a community event”…

Little did I think on Tuesday when I wrote that precedent in politics is no guide to the future that it would take less than 24 hours for some modest proof to emerge. So the Taoiseach is coming to meet the Orange Order, but the real political interest lies in the fact that he is launching the Feile an Phobail or West Belfast Festival: one of the most richly funded community festivals in these islands. As Chris pointed out on Twitter, two … Read more

Abortion Alliances Transcending Orange and Green

One of the first things I became involved in through the Belfast Feminist Network was a short play about abortion. It attempted to tell the stories of women’s experiences accessing abortions from Northern Ireland. At the time, around 2011, it was novel. We weren’t even telling real stories, per se, but writing them based on conversations with real women. We performed it a couple of times, and then the artistic conversations moved on to telling real women’s actual stories – … Read more

Why political precedent is no guide to the shape of Ireland’s political future…

One thing I will say for Sinn Fein is that they do sometimes learn from their mistakes. Last time round, they stayed out of the horsetrading for coalition on the rather implausible grounds that they would only negotiate from a position of strength. Now, they know very well that the political media obsesses about such things far in advance of the following election, but the message going out from Mary Lou is unambiguous this time about wanting to get into government. … Read more