Arlene and Mary Lou are at least explaining themselves. But how much does Stormont matter now?

“tiocfaidh ár lá   Pat Leahy in the Irish Times The extent to which coaxing the DUP back into powersharing is secondary for Sinn Féin was captured perfectly by McDonald’s speech at her ardfheis coronation at the RDS last weekend. If Sinn Féin was primarily concerned with helping Arlene Foster to bring her party back into Stormont then McDonald wouldn’t have rounded off her peroration with that rousing “Tiocfaidh ár lá!”Never mind that it was unscripted; it wasn’t accidental.    Arlene … Read more

For a political deal ever to emerge, mutual ignorance needs to faced and mutual respect observed

Mick has rightly just pointed out how tantalising easy the language issue could be to solve, were it not for the politics that expresses a far deeper  mutual ignorance ( in both senses) than is often recognised and which 20 years of supposed power sharing has failed to reduce.  Politically there must be limits to the management of the voluntary apartheid state we appear to be creating before cohesion collapses altogether.  That moment may not be as far off as … Read more

Sceptical, not cynical about “the long drawn out attempt to breathe life back into the Stormont arrangement”

Whilst on Saturday Brian highlighted the question of “the prospect of Sinn Fein’s return to Stormont as Mr Adams’ parting gift”, today Ed Moloney posits another, equally plausible scenario… You know, a cynic might suspect that the whole thing, at least the long drawn out attempt to breathe life back into the Stormont arrangement, was staged or timed so that the breakthrough would happen just when Sinn Fein want to present a new, Adams-free image to the electorate down South, one … Read more

Could the DUP handle the return to Stormont as Gerry Adams’ parting gift?

The  papers are at one in running  the story that a Stormont deal may be imminent next week. But  “with more work to be done” the emphasis ranges from glass half full to glass half empty. The Irish News headlines “ speculation quelled as differences remain ” while  Suzanne Breen now bylined as the paper’s  political editor, sticks her neck out  with the quote from “sources” that, “we may not have an agreement within hours but we are potentially on the … Read more

Rising expectations? The minority parties should put them to the test tomorrow

“I’m frustrated too, “ Karen Bradley told MPs. “The negotiations are at a very  sensitive stage.. very detailed and intense.. I’ve committed to not giving a running commentary .. I’m  not going to say anything that would jeopardise the talks.. They will last weeks, not months.. She was echoing the Taoiseach in the Dail yesterday, telling TDs : … he did not want to say anything that might cause offence to anyone at such a crucial juncture in the process … Read more

A mockery of a negotiation so far

So “huge differences remain” if you’re the DUP  but “good progress” was made if you’re a novice British minister  reading off the pre-prepared NIO script. What else don’t we know that the political correspondents can’t be bothered to say? The role of the chair is unknown – co-chairs, facilitators or dynamic leaders with a cunning plan ready to view? “We do not negotiate in public” said Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy last week as if for all the world this was … Read more

“I first went to the party in Feb 2014 over this bullying and have consistently done so to try and get it stopped.”

So, as we know, there’s been a steady stream of southern SF councillors leaving the party. The latest to go is North Dublin Cllr Noeleen Reilly, this is the one most likely to do serious damage, who announced her exit of. We knew something was wrong when the local SF TD, Dessie Ellis, publicly threatened to sue the Ballymun Tidy Towns Committee over what he alleged at the time was… …a completely false allegation was made against him at the meeting … Read more

Could reform of the petition of concern hold the key to surprise success in the Stormont talks?

Following up on Mick’s post on Colum Eastwood, let’s hear it for his SDLP deputy Nichola Mallon who’s called for the reform of the notorious blocking instrument of the petition of concern.  It had been supposedly been agreed in the abortive Fresh Start agreement of November 2015 that it should be used only “in exceptional circumstances,”  stating – importantly –  “the  grounds upon which it is being tabled and the nature of the detriment”.   After which nothing happened. The investigative … Read more

Pressure to resume the responsibilities of government is not a winning card

So how are the prospects for the talks being trailed?   Are three women, Arlene, Michelle and late  joiner Karen are up the creek with Simon but without a paddle? Or will they brave the towering waves of cynicism to ride them out and make it home  to everyone’s  huge surprise? Karen – as we must get used to calling the secretary of state for the time being -, repeats the standard stale brief, that agreement is close if only.. She … Read more

Mary Lou McDonald faces battle of margins as FG and FF set to scrap over every loose seat

IAs we await the confirmation whether or not Mary Lou McDonald was the only candidate for President of Sinn Fein, our own Patricia McBride tipped Michelle O’Neill for Vice President on RTE Drivetime last evening. So it looks like two women at the top. Or rather front of house. Power up to now has rested almost exclusively with the parties shadowy ‘leadership team’. Neither women can expect to be let too far off the party’s halter. Nor are they likely … Read more

Reform proposals ready and waiting must be put to the renewed party talks – and the public

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Parliament_Buildings_Stormont.jpg

The Irish News reports that a basket of reform proposals have been withheld from public view because there are no ministers to sign them off. This is height  of exquisite absurdity. Here we have material for the agenda for the renewed party talks to get their teeth into. Once these papers have been presented to the parties to consider for a week or two,  ( if they haven’t  been already),  they should be signalled for early publication by the supervising … Read more

A new round of Stormont talks can succeed only if they focus on the need to govern. And British-Irish passivity must end

The local media are reporting po-faced that another “last chance” round of talks about restoring the Executive is about to begin. The interesting fact is that all five Assembly parties will be invited. Other than that, further comment seems redundant for now. The replies will be pored over for clues about any shifts of position. Nothing has emerged so far about the chairing role, neutral, mediating or steered, and whether the two governments or one of them will present any … Read more

“As with the hardest essay questions, there is no right answer but many wrong ones.”

Writing in the Guardian, “former Downing Street Brexit spokesperson”, Matthew O’Toole [no relation – Ed] has some intelligent, and interesting, things to say about “the psychology of imagined identity” here, and the task facing the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, as well as the UK Prime Minister in the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. [Definitely no relation! – Ed] From the Guardian article As Bradley will discover, Brexit has unsettled one of the most intangible but … Read more

“This isn’t an issue about the mayor, the mayor was using his democratic right to use that casting vote…”

So says the Derry and Strabane District Sinn Féin Councillor Eric McGinley, a party colleague of the mayor in question, Sinn Féin Councillor, Maolíosa McHugh.  The Sinn Féin mayor had previously declined to meet Prince Charles when he visited County Londonderry last year to meet victims of flooding.  In his place, representing the office of the mayor, SDLP councillor John Boyle, the deputy mayor of Derry and Strabane, accompanied Prince Charles during the visit. The reason for the Sinn Féin statement defending … Read more

“Any political party that vetoes the re-establishment of the Northern Assembly until further human rights are recognised (or not) is putting the cart before the horse.”

As Newton Emerson pointed out in Saturday’s Irish News, Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, and erstwhile “father of an all singing, all dancing Northern Ireland Human Rights Bill“, Professor Brice Dickson, has had something to say about ‘red lines’ and a ‘rights-based’ society.  From the Irish News article Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, Prof Brice Dickson, has penned a robust article in the Irish Times explaining that the Stormont talks issues Sinn Féin is describing as “rights” are … Read more

“Perhaps we can begin with social parity.”

Writing in the Guardian, Richard Angell, LGBT officer of the Labour Irish Society and director of Progress, has an interesting suggestion Owen Smith is right to say that if the parties of Northern Ireland cannot get their act together and restore power-sharing government then direct rule, however undesirable, must be used to make progress on LGBT and reproductive rights. But he is wrong to say that referendums are necessary to give a mandate for change. For one, thing they are not required. Unlike in the … Read more

Time for Fianna Fáil to end its northern election taboo?

The Sunday Business Post reported yesterday that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is “delaying his decision on whether to run candidates in the North” amid concerns in the party about the impact of Brexit. It’s nearly four years since the party called for active and serious participating and engagement in the political process in the North and decided that “…the party should begin fielding candidates for election there for 2019“. To make any meaningful impact on the elections to the 11 … Read more

“The prospect written between the lines of this week’s letter is of Sinn Féin sidelining itself….”

I Newton Emerson points out the irony of that letter Chris blogged the other day, signed by 200 members of nationalist civil society. “We appeal urgently to you Taoiseach,” it concludes, “and to the Irish Government, to reassure us of your commitment to stand for equality and a human-rights based society and your determination to secure and protect the rights of all citizens in the North of Ireland. ” Varadkar’s office responded promptly by saying the way to address these issues … Read more

“The fact that all of the other parties in the Dáil rallied around to wave the green flag on Tuesday demonstrates not that the Government got it right but that it successfully pandered to populist sentiment”

In the Irish Times, Stephen Collins on the risks involved in the Irish Government’s public positioning over the ongoing Brexit negotiations.  From the Irish Times article The British government and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are the ones primarily responsible for Monday’s debacle, but the Irish Government didn’t exactly cover itself in glory. The way Tánaiste Simon Coveney jumped the gun with a premature radio interview on Monday morning and the subsequent mood music suggesting that the Irish side had … Read more

Sinn Fein Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh resigns from the party over ‘serious disciplinary issues’

Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who only narrowly lost out on a Dail seat for Sinn Fein in Galway West and South Mayo, his statement reads… I, with a sizeable number of other dissatisfied members have sought to deal with all these issues through the appropriate channels – locally, regionally and nationally. We have taken them as high as the Ard Chomhairle and the Office of the President and now have no other internal avenue to have them addressed within the party. Discussions … Read more