“I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” Theresa May in Brussels? Answer. Worse: humiliation

What was Theresa May actually expecting  from the EU 27 leaders in Brussels? There was always the desperate hope for one of those last minute rush to settle against the declared odds. Instead… headlines… Daily Telegraph ( Brexiteer) Theresa May was humiliated once again by EU leaders last night as her attempts to improve her Brexit deal were thrown back in her face. The Sun (Brexiteer) and coiner of  dreadful puns BRUSSELS ROUT  Theresa May told to get stuffed by … Read more

Micheál Martin: “The contagion of political chaos will not spread here from London…”

So far from the feverish speculation in Westminster today, there was a more minor key play taking place in Leinster House this afternoon in a session called “Dáil Statements on European Council”. Micheal Martin kicked off with a sobering assessment of the implications of the chaos in London, pointing out that “however good the deal is, a deal which will not or cannot be ratified ultimately becomes inoperable and worthless”. Whether or not the deal is ratified, and there is still … Read more

Leading Northern Irish voices join support of ‘Stansted 15’ protestors

“It must be recalled that this is all taking place against the background of an inhumane immigration policy that is acknowledged to be openly hostile.” Leading Northern Irish politicians, human rights groups, academics, journalists and activists have expressed their “deep concern and disagreement” with Monday’s ruling against fifteen human rights activists who “acted to stop a brutal, secretive and barely legal deportation flight” at Stansted airport in March 2017. Known as the ‘Stansted 15’, they have been convicted of ‘endangering an aerodrome’ under the … Read more

Four Pro-Remain parties issue joint statement on the backstop

The following statement was issued by the leaders of Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party.   The four Remain parties, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and Green Party continue to believe that there is no such thing as a good Brexit and our preference is for no Brexit at all. We recognise that the majority of people, businesses and civic society do not want Brexit either. “We have a shared responsibility to protect jobs, economic stability, the environment and … Read more

Keep your eye on the glimmer of light in the Big Picture. But first we need to re-examine the backstop, sooner rather than later.

Although the sight of it is darkly occluded, the shape of things to come is emerging through the fog. Whatever immediate  political strategy  Theresa May chooses today, the dream of the hard line Brexiteers is in process of disintegration.  Whatever the political turmoil today, the UK will retain some sort of close relationship with the EU.   In Northern Ireland, unionists will have a closer relationship with the Republic and with nationalists generally – and I would argue with only slightly … Read more

50 years on: Ulster at the Crossroads address

50 years ago tonight, the then Prime Minister, Captain Terence O’Neill took to the airwaves broadcasting an address on BBC Northern Ireland and UTV at 6pm. The address came as the Unionist government began to loose control of the escalating civil rights marches and he faced greater pressure from the British government to pursue reforms. In tandem with this, he faced growing criticism from senior members of his government such as Bill Craig and Brian Faulkner. Why a broadcast? In … Read more

UUP calls for May Deal to be voted down with an extension of Article 50

The Ulster Unionists have issued a statement on the Withdrawal Agreement, calling for its rejection. “The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between Her Majesty’s Government and the EU will erode the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom and should be rejected. “The Ulster Unionist Party warned of the potential consequences of the inclusion of the disastrous backstop in December 2017, but the DUP who claimed to be in a position of influence at the heart of UK Government were asleep … Read more

The DUP would be fools to vote for no confidence in the government and boost the chances of a No Deal default

Politics is in a vortex of fast moving events over which the government has little control. According to the likely scenario, Theresa May will lose the meaningful vote badly next Tuesday night.  What happens next is in uncharted waters. But this is how  the meaningful vote fits into the prescribed  timetable, courtesy of the FT: The vote is a legal obligation under the UK’s 2018 EU Withdrawal Act, which says such a vote must take place “before the European Parliament decides whether … Read more

The Stagnation of Urban Renewal

Late last year the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) released the updated Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measures. There were no surprises here: half of the most deprived Super Output Areas (SOAs) are in Belfast, a fifth are in the North West, and the rest are scattered in mostly rural communities. There is very little movement in and out of the top 100. The absence of a steady flow of continuous and dynamic data has contributed to stagnation and … Read more

‘A New Ireland: a ten year plan?’ Book launch…

‘A New Ireland: a ten year plan?’ is being launched at events in Dublin and Belfast tomorrow (7th December). The book considers the prospect for Irish reunification in the context of the impact of Brexit and demographic changes in Northern Ireland, alongside the economic strength and increasing social liberalism of the Irish Republic.  Things are changing in Ireland, north and south. But the problems associated with the Brexit referendum result demonstrate the danger of having a yes/no vote without considering … Read more

Is Your Child Green or Orange?

Children in Northern Ireland are continuing to be shoe-horned into Orange and Green identities, by the very programme set up to break down divisions. This article draws on a recent FOI request to the NI Executive, to show how children participating in ‘Together: Building a United Community’ (TBUC) Camps, ended up being designated as one community background or the other. A factor which surely makes it more difficult to break out of the cycle of polarisation in Northern Ireland, and which … Read more

A riposte to David McWilliams

Out of interest… It was surprising that the Financial Times should publish a long triumphalist critique of Northern Ireland by the economist David McWilliams without comment from other economists (“ The final frontier”, Life & Arts, December 1). Mr McWilliams claims that most people in Northern Ireland want to stay in the EU. It is true that 56 per cent voted for the UK to remain in the EU. He echoes Sinn Féin in claiming that this meant many unionists … Read more

Theresa May’s new olive branch to the DUP is unlikely to impress

So was  there something worth hiding that’s now been exposed under duress? In my opinion, it’s not so much a smoking gun, more a blast of painful shotgun pellets.  DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds was bound to describe as “devastating” the Attorney General’s full legal advice on the withdrawal agreement that the government fought  so hard to withhold yesterday – and lost. In a statement this afternoon Mr Dodds  rises  to new heights  with the description of the  backstop as … Read more

If demographics is destiny, it’s up to us to decide the sort of destiny we want

I was intrigued by my friend David McWilliams’ warm and typically human account of Northern Ireland’s constitutional prospects in the FT. David has always had an abiding commitment to exploring the possibilities and the advantages of a single polity living on our island. In the naughties, he invited me to speak on a panel on his RTE show, which looked at the prospects of a united Ireland. On the bus down I rang one of my oldest small ‘u’ unionist mates … Read more

Horror at the school gate…

A man was gunned down and killed in the community where I live yesterday. He was in a parked car outside his son’s school on the Glen Road at hometime, waiting to give his son a lift. While he did so a man walked up to his car and shot him 5 or 6 times. He died immediately. To put this horror in context you’d need to know the area where this murder took place. That part of the Glen … Read more

DUP are threatening May with collapse unnecessarily, even in their own cause

It looks worse and worse for Theresa May as a crucial week begins. The Times reports:   Theresa May was under fresh pressure last night as the DUP threatened to abandon her in a confidence vote if she failed to get her Brexit deal through parliament. Party sources said that they were considering the move, which would leave the prime minister without a Commons majority, over fears that her plan would create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest … Read more

Theresa May’s survival depends on cross party support for Plan B. Will she concede or quit?

First things first. Are we back to contemplating  the DUP holding the balance of power? The Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times report what they rate as exciting new moves for an already potentially fateful week. The Democratic Unionist Party will join Labour and other opposition parties on Monday in a bid to force the Government to publish its legal advice on Brexit – a move that could delay the crucial vote on Theresa May’s plan. In an explosive alliance that will rock the … Read more

Should the IFA adopt its own national anthem?

Recently we had the disgraceful but in some ways predictable behaviour of some fans (but at least it was a minority) at the Northern Ireland versus Republic of Ireland match during the playing of the National Anthems. I was always taught that no matter how you feel about a country, or its government’s policies, you should always respect the national anthem. However, at the same time – why do the Irish Football Association still continue to use God Save the … Read more

Game of chicken is hotting up

Brexit tensions are rising towards fever pitch. The Times story puts it neatly : If you step back from the noise surrounding Theresa May’s struggle to get her deal through parliament there are really only four Brexit options left on the table: Mrs May’s deal (possibly tweaked); no deal; a second referendum; and a Norway-style soft Brexit. Each option has its advocates in the Commons but none yet has enough backing to command majority support in the House. Ultimately MPs … Read more