Rethinking 1916 ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum

One April morning 102 years ago a countess, a grocer’s daughter, a carpenter and and a former British soldier picked up guns and marched onto the streets of Dublin to rebel against the British Empire and declare an Irish republic. We introduce these characters and what they were fighting to achieve in the new episode of The Irish Passport podcast: ‘1916 and the Invention of Ireland‘. The episode traces the cultural upheaval that led to the rebellion and questions whether, 102 … Read more

Fears of new Brexit crisis over the border and the customs union are exaggerated. Probably

Stakes are being raised in the Brexit poker game  as “ deadlines” of June or is it October? approach.  I continue to believe that a solution will be found without harming the single UK market, in a customs relationship involving trusted trader schemes and an increase in  regulatory checks at our ports and airports. Next week, the issues will be tested in a Commons debate with a non-binding vote on a Lords motion approving continued membership of the customs union. … Read more

IT Poll suggests pre-Christmas Brexit euphoria around Taoiseach is starting to wear off

I’m generally not minded to bother readers with polls unless they tell us something new or challenging. Today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI contains some details I think are well worth noting. Here are the headline figures… Not a lot of change in the general pattern (note that independents still sit on shrinking ground), though as Damian Loscher notes Sinn Féin is up three points to 22%, its highest rating in this poll since early 2016. He also notes that: Sinn Féin … Read more

The civil service must share the blame with the politicians for our faltering administration

Newton Emerson has written a thoughtful piece on that neglected topic, now  blindingly exposed by the RHI inquiry,  of how Northern Ireland is administered. He had already decided that the region is too small to sustain a comprehensive health service. The inquiry’s verdict on specific blame could be years away. In the meantime, the first overarching theme to emerge has been something of a surprise – namely, that Northern Ireland is too small to have a separate administrative existence. A key motivation … Read more

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government…

This morning I  came across this classic clip from The Monty Python and the Holy Grail film. Ever after 40 years, it is still a great send-up of our political system. Enjoy. A self-perpetuating autocracy King Arthur: Old woman! Dennis: Man. King Arthur: Man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there? Dennis: I’m 37. King Arthur: What? Dennis: I’m 37. I’m not old. King Arthur: Well I can’t just call you “man”. Dennis: Well you could say “Dennis”. … Read more

The Border Force row exposes differences between British and Irish citizenship that have to be settled

Leaving aside the delicious irony, I would guess that Sinn Fein are right: the attempt to limit recruitment for the UK Border Force to British passport holders is discriminatory and would be overthrown  in court.  Why should anyone have to produce a passport for a job in Northern Ireland anyway?  This has echoes of the malign Windrush problem. without feeling the  pain – yet,   Up to now only when you go abroad and need to produce a passport has the issue … Read more

We can acknowledge Powell as a significant historical figure, without resurrecting his politics…

The decision by the BBC to broadcast Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech on Saturday was always going to be controversial. The speech, made by Powell 50 years ago on 20th April, had a long-term impact on British politics, and transformed the climate on race relations in Britain. In the speech, Powell spoke out against Britain’s liberal immigration laws, predicting dire consequences for the country if immigration was to continue unchecked. He also attacked the race relations legislation that the … Read more

RHI Inquiry: “Dr Crawford I’m not inviting a comment from you, thank you.”

Coming back to Slugger (after a few weeks mostly out of the saddle), the most interesting item appears to be the RHI Inquiry. It is clear Sir Patrick Coghlin does not share the view of previous members of the judiciary that Stormont is a delicate flower. The BBC reports that he… …cautioned the public that if they heard something “sensational” in media coverage they should seek out the evidence themselves. He said the inquiry had gone to great lengths to ensure … Read more

Cowardly attacks on female politicians’ appearance not just the work of social media’s losers

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart has today rightly highlighted the unacceptable nature of personal abuse that was directed at her on social media recently. Comments were directed at her and party leader, Arlene Foster, after the latter had posted a photograph of the pair on Twitter. Lockhart’s intervention was welcomed by Sinn Fein’s Northern Leader, Michelle O’Neill: The personal abuse meted out to high profile figures in politics can be deeply unsavoury, and is usually attributed to accounts with anonymous profiles … Read more

Only structural change will deliver better education

Maddy Bridgman who is the Public Affairs Officer for the Integrated Education Fund writes for Slugger about the Alternative Manifesto published today by the IEF The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) has published its Alternative Manifesto for education based on the premise that we need to change our education system. Recent research (commissioned by the IEF from independent polling company LucidTalk) found parents reporting that some schools cannot afford to employ enough staff, and many buildings are decrepit. We have many … Read more

I voted for peace, and all I got was this lousy culture war

I found this week’s 20 year commemoration of the Agreement quite surreal. Maybe it was because I was sick at home in my pyjamas and missed out on the bling of the big events. No basking in the glow of disgraced elderly politicians for me… Instead, I was more struck by how sad and stuck everything feels right now. It feels like we voted for peace, but all we got was this lousy culture war. By culture war, in this … Read more

The Future of Referendums: What Role Should They Play and How Should They Be Conducted?

Referendums are now established as part of the UK’s political landscape.  They are widely seen as necessary before some fundamental constitutional changes are made.  Politicians will continue from time to time to find it useful to manage conflicts by proposing to put certain decisions to the people. Yet, despite their importance, there has been little concerted thinking recently about how referendums should be conducted.  Two inquiries conducted in the 1990s – by the Nairne Commission and the Committee on Standards … Read more

SDLP to hold special conference on abortion in private

From John Manley in the Irish News; The SDLP has confirmed that next month’s special conference to review abortion policy will be held behind closed doors. The party will hold a conference on Saturday May19 dedicated entirely to abortion policy after it was decided that there would not have been adequate time to discuss the contentious issue at last weekend’s annual conference in Belfast. An hour had intially been earmarked to debate a number of motions relating to abortion at … Read more

“I have no ideological objection to Sinn Féin being part of a government.”

AFTER months of denials that FG would contemplate a coalition, here’s an interesting and telling story breaking today in Dublin… A Fine Gael minister has denied he was slapped down after declaring no objection to Sinn Féin in government, adding that many of his party colleagues share his view. Jim Daly said he spent two hours with Leo Varadkar on Wednesday and the purported controversy over his comments that Sinn Féin’s mandate was legitimate was never raised once by the … Read more

UUP Advisor recalls how the party eventually backed the Good Friday Agreement

Final word on the Agreement 20th anniversary.The highlight of the week.An eyewitness account told to @MarkCarruthers7 on @bbctheview about exactly what happened inside the UUP room on Good Friday 1998. — Mark Simpson (@BBCMarkSimpson) April 12, 2018 More here After Tuesday night’s appearance on @bbctheview I thought I would share a personal letter I wrote to Ken Maginnis after his untimely departure from the UUP in 2012. It relates back to Good Friday 1998 and I meant every word … Read more

What’s happening to our health service?

Director of Communications for the health and social care system David Gordon shares his thoughts after six months in the job So where do you start when describing health and social care here? Serious problems are in the news almost every day. It would be wrong to ever downplay those problems. And yet they are not the full story. Great care is still being delivered by great staff every single day. The most recent Health Survey showed compliments from the … Read more

Hear My Voice – a cinematic companion piece to Colin Davidson’s Silent Testimony

Hear My Voice is a cinematic companion piece to Colin Davidson’s Silent Testimony, a 2015 exhibition of 18 portraits of people who suffered loss during the local conflict, developed in conjunction with the WAVE Trauma Centre. The paintings are back in the Ulster Museum until Sunday 22 April and the exhibition is well worth a visit.

For me and my mum, Belfast was a sanctuary. And we have the Good Friday Agreement to thank for that

Last night, as I sat with my fellow council colleagues listening to President Clinton and Senator Mitchell being awarded the Freedom of the City for their part in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, I thought of my mum. Seventeen years ago in Zimbabwe, we were down to just two (my brother, sister and father all living in different countries) and I was at boarding school. My mum had heard rumours that after weeks of shortages there was petrol arriving in … Read more

Framing Public Memory: What if a play park was to be named after Michael Stone, Wesley Somerville or Lenny Murphy?

Growing up I was very conscious of my nationalism. It wasn’t that I came from a very political family but my grandfather had nurtured in me a love for History, especially Irish History which I retain to this very day. I grew up with pictures of James Connolly, Patrick Pearse and Robert Emmet adorning my bedroom walls. My contemporaries had the Bay City Rollers and all the regalia that with that, I’d no comparative regalia so I fastened a tricolour … Read more