Taking their seats at Westminster would be a high risk U-turn for Sinn Fein

Noel Whelan  in the Irish Times  today repeats  the case for Sinn Fein to take their seats at Westminster  – but only after a general election for which the end of abstention would be in their manifesto. This differs from the plea by the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee who recently wrote that ..the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, ventured to call on the party on Wednesday to take up their six – soon to be seven – Westminster seats “to make things better … Read more

Leo goes to Washington

The Taoiseach. Leo Varadkar, and his ministerial colleagues landed into the United States this week as the Trump White House is embroiled in turmoil. This St. Patrick’s week isn’t at all that strange, however, in the new, unprecedented political reality ushered in when the American people chose the bombastic billionaire over Hillary Clinton nearly a year and a half ago now. The dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, though it seemed to happen suddenly, has been in the works … Read more

Beneath the Harp and Crown: Philip Orr Speaks ahead of the Premiere of his new play about UDR Veteran

‘Beneath the Harp and Crown,’ a new play by Philip Orr, premieres next week in four venues. The play was developed in collaboration with Decorum NI, a charity based support group for veterans of the security forces and their families who served during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The play is billed as addressing the question, ‘Can a UDR veteran come to terms with his painful past?’ It is a one-man show performed by Brian Payne. There will be post-show … Read more

No threat to the Good Friday Agreement in sight, but bolder joint action is needed after St Patrick’s Day

Traditionally the St Patrick’s Day pilgrimages to America have been occasions for everybody involved in our politics to be on their best behaviour and bask in waves of Irish-American blarney. Not so much this year, as  Arlene Foster and Mary Lou McDonald have been left off the White House invitees list for failing to clinch the deal to get Stormont going again. But Adams and Paisley jnr are lurking in the wings as  living reminders of past glories compared to … Read more

This cannot simply be a numbers game. Unity will only occur peacefully through dialogue and co-operation with both nationalists and unionists

Cathal Haughey is Dublin Organizer of Ógra Fianna Fáil and committee member of DCU4UNITY From the 7th-9th of March, Dublin City University students voted overwhelmingly in favor (76%) for their Students’ Union to support Irish reunification. The campaign was run by ‘DCU4Unity’ and had cross-party support from the DCU branches of Ógra Fhianna Fáil, Ógra Shinn Féin and Labour Youth. I was delighted to be appointed to the committee of the campaign as chair of the DCU Ógra Fhianna Fail. … Read more

Clean hands

Nato Conference Room

FitzJamesHorse pithily describes the formality that Irish is the “first national language” as Ireland’s “first national hypocrisy”. But Ireland is not short of hypocrisies. Its second national hypocrisy has long been the pretence that Ireland is somehow free of the sin of abortion. And to this list we should add a third, the conceit that Ireland is a “neutral country”. The second and third national hypocrisies are remarkably similar. In both cases Ireland has dodged a controversial issue by washing … Read more

Derry’s politicians should stop playing the victim and make more friends and influence people

Steve Bradley’s chastening post on  Derry part 1 is remarkable for its detailed analysis and the volume  of  comment in response -greater I think than for any of the usual subjects I’ve seen in a long time.   Certainly it touches a nerve with me. I left my Derry home to go to school in Coleraine and never lived there again after the fateful year of 1969 when the old order quite suddenly and easily fell apart, an arresting fact its … Read more

SF is “going through a process where we are figuring out” a new position on abortion

It seems Sinn Fein is going to hedge its bets on the Referendum on the Eighth. Despite the fact that it is planning to back the removal, it has thrown considerable doubt over what kind of amendments it will back in the Dail. Fiach Kelly in the Irish Times today… Holding an ard fheis to update Sinn Féin’s policy on abortion before the referendum to repeal Eighth Amendment to the Constitution could be logistically difficult, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has … Read more

Did Religious Leaders Contribute to Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland? Review of Nukhet Sandal’s New Book

Did religious leaders contribute to conflict transformation in Northern Ireland? It’s a question posed in a new book by Nukhet Sandal, assistant professor of political science at Ohio University, USA – and answered with a resounding ‘yes.’ In Religious Leaders and Conflict Transformation: Northern Ireland and Beyond (Cambridge University Press, 2017), Sandal paints an overwhelmingly positive picture of religious leaders’ efforts to contribute to peacebuilding during the Troubles and after the Good Friday Agreement. Sandal argues that religious leaders articulated … Read more

Fewer east-west economic restrictions is more far important than an open border.

Ah, Brexit. My own thoughts have been from the start is that it represents a real and material threat to the economy of the Republic far more than any threat it poses to peace in Northern Ireland. Guardian picture editors may love the agitprop of 1960s style Irish customs, but a good deal on trade and one that offers the UK access to the single market (albeit at a price) would send such lurid scenarios back where they belong: the … Read more

The Brexit Border in 4 key slides

Recently I decided that what is needed right now are some slides that attempt to put the Brexit border issue as simply as possible. This is a pared-back and simplified overview of complex matters, but it’s my attempt to provide an outline of what border controls could mean for different types of border with the EU after Brexit. It is the second draft of a work in progress and any corrections, comments and suggestions are welcome. Slide 1 shows the different … Read more

Brexit battle lines drawn up, or the storm before the calm and other cliches

On the face of it,  the prospects are looking grim again but it may only mean that they’re getting down to business – at last- again. The BBC headlines “Brexit trade talks battle lines drawn.”  And the FT reports  that  the EU –  the  authoritative  Council of the nation states and not just the Commission of bureaucrats –  are taking a hard line for future negotiations with the UK –  slapping down Theresa May’s  supposedly emollient  attempt last week as … Read more

“Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald have been making eyes at each other, using Brexit as chaperone…”

Interesting observation from Eoghan Harris… Leo Varadkar is playing full-on footsie with Sinn Fein – although he must know that Sinn Fein is using Brexit, like it uses the Irish language, as a baton to beat up on Northern Prods. Behind their cosmetic digs at each other, Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald have been making eyes at each other, using Brexit as chaperone. Last Tuesday, at a meeting of Sinn Fein in Newry, Mary Lou McDonald patronisingly praised Fine … Read more

Brexit latest sees Coveney urging more clarity with Dodds asking for more logic

The Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney appeared on the Andrew Marr Show this morning to speak about his response to Theresa May’s speech on Friday about the UK’s future partnership with the European Union. Some of his remarks are below; “It is a very complex thing for Britain to leave the EU… when you add in a fragile peace process this is a significant responsibility for the British government and I’m glad the PM made that clear in her speech” … Read more

Another angle on Sinn Féin’s Westminster abstention

Any debate about Sinn Féin’s Westminster abstention policy tends to cover no new ground. It always starts with someone – most recently Polly Toynbee – suggesting that SF should take their seats to pursue some common, worthwhile objective, in this case, that of blunting the sharp edges of brexit. It ends with SF supporters asserting that (a) it is a key republican principle that can’t be easily argued away; (b) that the party has a clear mandate to abstain from Westminster; … Read more

BIPA and the ramping up of Anglo-Irish relations

This weekend fifty parliamentarians from Ireland, Britain and other parts of the archipelago are meeting in a hotel in Sligo for the 56th plenary of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. The BIPA rarely attracts much media attention except by accident such as when a geographically challenged MP drove to Newcastle, County Down rather than Newcastle upon Tyne for a plenary. But the BIPA is assuming greater importance thanks to Brexit, although the assembly plays no formal role. One of our most … Read more

So we just have to be smart. Apparently.

We are assured that technology will fix our borders (quite often by certain politicians, actually).  All we need are CCTV cameras at the border and no checks will be required according to a a report by Lars Karlsson, President of KGH Border Services, Former Director of World Customs Organization and Deputy Director General of Swedish Customs, so we are told by the DUP. Indeed, that’s what the Abstract says: This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ … Read more

Surf and turf

Boats with EU, UK flags sailing in opposite directions

As blogger David Allen Green has pointed out, whoever produces the first draft of a legal document has the advantage. While the EU has been criticised for its backstop-Brexit draft, the UK has conspicuously failed to produce any draft at all, and shows no signs of doing so. The final transition agreement is thus unlikely to differ from the EU’s draft in anything other than some finer details and cosmetic language. This was of course predicable and widely predicted back … Read more

EU document is the equivalent of a government white paper, so the telling detail is yet to come…

With the tensions getting high over the EU’s release of a well leaked draft of the EU’s terms for the UK’s exit, the speculation around its intentions as much implications could prove to be as damaging as any actual outcome. The UUP’s response this afternoon quotes a piece of text in Article 4, regarding the free movement of goods: “…the territory of Northern Ireland, excluding the territorial waters of the United Kingdom (the “territory of Northern Ireland”), shall be considered … Read more

“where reconciliation is a selective process, healing a pernicious and destabilising past remains as a challenge to us all.”

It’s had a muted response, both here on Slugger and in the wider media but this intervention from a group of Civic Unionists and unaligned others makes some senior points about the way NI politics is conducted as though they did not exist. I hope we’ll have a direct contribution from the group here on Slugger, but for now here’s the text… “We the undersigned desire a transparent and inclusive debate concerning rights, truth, equality and civil liberties and in … Read more