And it turns out it’s Ed Poots job to see the DUP into an uncertain unionist future…

On the face, the DUP have retreated back to the ground it held back in the mid 70s before Peter Robinson. Ed Poots is their leader. Right up until the announcement is it clear from the few briefings we were able to get Jeffrey thought it was him. Turns out they’ve stuck with the Free Presbyterian Paisley-ite. Not only does it mark the height of Jeffrey’s career in the party (as his fellow defector from the UUP Arlene Foster), it …

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Northern Ireland today is different from 1998

Northern Ireland is a different place today, than when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. It is not just that many more people here today do not feel aligned to the traditional unionist and nationalist/republican identities, but we have many more ‘new citizens’ from other places. Lilian Seenoi-Barr is a well-known advocate for black and minority ethnic communities in Northern Ireland, as director of the North West Migrants Forum. In the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast Lilian …

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To What End Are We Prepared To Handle The Legacy Of NI’s Past? A Proposal.

Introduction It is the lesson from that recent period of conflict which we call the “Troubles”, in which 3523 people were killed, 47,000 people were injured, relationships were torn asunder, parts of Northern Ireland ‘Balkanised’ and economic prosperity reduced in both parts of Ireland that violence inevitably leaves a legacy of lasting bitterness. Approximately 60% of the deaths were due to the actions of the Republican Movement, 30% to Loyalist Paramilitaries and 10% members of the Security Forces. In this …

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The ups and downs of hospitality: massive staff shortages, high demand and 6 quid pints…

As our bars, restaurants and hotels start to come out of cold storage they have a whole new set of challenges. The main one is a massive shortage of staff at all levels. There has always been a shortage of chefs but this has now expanded to most roles, especially at the lower end. Talking to people in the industry there seems to be a few things going on. We used a lot of immigrant labour to plug the gaps, …

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Northern Ireland has not failed, but its politics is lagging behind the change in its own people…

A friend this morning told me something I’d been thinking for a long time myself. That is that most Northern Irish politicians (and even large players in civil society) are very given to the speaking of gibberish when asked about NI. Thing is, I don’t think they’re alone in that predicament. Politicians everywhere are struggling to keep up with the rapids of social media platforms like Twitter which drive debate at the break neck speed of emotions. And it is …

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Robbie Butler rules himself out of UUP leadership ‘at this stage’

Robbie Butler has ruled himself out of the race to be UUP leader in a statement issued this evening. Having listened to Doug speak on the media this week and spent some time with him personally, I believe we have a candidate who possesses the skills and attributes that are currently needed and it will be my pleasure to play any supporting role in the UUP Assembly team to make Northern Ireland a place we “ALL” want to live, work …

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From Belfast to Beirut: an appreciation of Robert Fisk

“My editor at The Times had safely received the whole report and duly printed it all except for one paragraph which recorded how Gavin (Hewitt) and I came across a tribesman outside Jalalabad standing on a box and sodomising a camel. This was a bit too much for Times readers he felt.” Such is the life of a foreign correspondent. Robert Fisk reported from the Middle East for 40 years during which time he earned a reputation as one of …

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Coroner finds the 10 victims of the Ballymurphy massacre were innocent…

After nearly 50 years the families of those killed in Ballymurphy have state vindication of what they knew all along – their family members were completely innocent. From the BBC report: The inquest, which began in November 2018, examined the deaths in and around the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in August 1971. The shootings happened after an operation in which paramilitary suspects were detained without trial. Victims included a priest trying to help the wounded and a mother of …

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If Edwin Poots emerges as leader of the DUP, could this be a blessing in disguise for Unionism?

Watching the events which led to the resignation of First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster MLA and the subsequent declaration of his candidacy by Edwin Poots- initially understood to be for both position there was a deluge of reaction on social media some of it bordering unnecessarily on vitriolic comment. Not a lot is gained from such. More measured words were reflective of strong opposition to and distaste for the perceived insensitive nature of DUP politics. Clearly, many people …

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Diane Dodds holds the key to getting the population fully vaccinated…

The Northern Ireland vaccine programme has been a stunning success. We have pretty much full vaccination in the over 60s and they have been doing a great job of going down the age groups. The issue is as you get younger you start to get more vaccine hesitancy. Young people generally think they are immortal, and when you have a disease that does not seem to affect them too badly you can understand why some might be tempted to not …

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David O’Sullivan: The EU at 70 – still going strong?

Watch back this evening’s Hume Foundation inaugural European Spirit of Peace Lecture, delivered by David O’Sullivan (former EU ambassador to the US) which looked at the EU 70 years on and asked whether it was going strong. He had cautionary words for those conflating the Irish constitutional issue with practical aspects of the NI Protocol which he said was “unhelpful” and could “destabilise many in the Unionist community”.

Doug Beattie declares his bid for UUP Leader

The Upper Bann MLA, Doug Beattie has announced his bid to become the next leader of the UUP. UUP MLA @BeattieDoug has confirmed he will run as as a candidate to succeed outgoing party leader Steve Aiken pic.twitter.com/HzbCYQfl0M — Rebecca Black (@RBlackPA) May 10, 2021   “Doug Beattie MC MLA, UUP” by niassembly is licensed under CC BY-ND

Sturgeon is not as invincible as she projects. The Union has begun to fight back

The FT reports that the £ reached a new high level “as prospects for a new early  referendum on Scottish independence dimmed.”  This might strike you as very odd after panic hit the  London media  at the news of the inevitable SNP victory on Friday. Just as weird was the desperate consolation sought in the fact that the SNP failed to win an absolute majority by a single vote. I just don’t get that; they’re home and dry with the support of the Greens. The falling short is purely token. Clearly the markets dislike the uncertainty likely to be created by another Indyref campaign. The shock of first reactions in London means that Westminster realises at last that they may have a problem in Scotland. Do Johnson and the Tories care?  The same question occurs as for Northern Ireland. He is secure beyond his wildest dreams  or  rather  the nightmare of even a week ago when he seemed drowning in a tide of petty scandal.  Great Britain ( certainly not NI),  is now  looking split under three different convincing  mandates, Labour in Wales, the SNP in Scotland and the Tories  in England , all mutually exclusive.

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Battle for the Soul of Unionism

At Féile an Phobail’s Leader’s debate back in August 2019, I was fascinated to witness a microcosmic battle – perhaps skirmish – for the soul of Unionism take place (starting at 1h05): Doug Beattie got quite animated after listening to Gregory Campbell’s defence of his own Britishness, one which came across as unnecessarily binary and reductive. Campbell’s comments earned several objections, but it is Beattie’s that is worth quoting in full: Let me be clear here. I’m an Irishman and …

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Has the UUP Past the Point of Rescue?

With the DUP being in a highly distressed state, this should be an opportune time for the UUP to step up and assume the leadership of Unionism. However, the UUP at present is not fit for purpose and few are considering them as a viable option at the forthcoming election. Rather than being contenders to the throne, the UUP is in reality simply fighting for its political survival. Some UUP members have contacted me to query why I never discuss …

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Steve Aiken to resign as UUP Leader

Story by BBC Political Reporter, Jayne McCormack Steve Aiken is to resign as Ulster Unionist leader, BBC News NI understands. The South Antrim assembly member has been in charge of the party since November 2019. However, it is understood frustration with his leadership has been growing across all levels of the party. Several sources told the BBC there was a “widespread view” that change was needed ahead of next year’s assembly election. It is understood discussions have been taking place …

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You are never as anonoymous online as you think…

Eoghan Harris has been sacked by the Irish Independent for running a sock puppet Twitter account. There is also a good overview of the story in the Irish Times. For those not aware of the term this is when you set up a Twitter account with a fake name. I am not a reader of the Irish Independent so I have never read anything by Eoghan Harris. I have no opinion of him either way but I know he does …

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Brandon Lewis has tricked them into accepting a wrap on the Troubles

Maybe Brandon Lewis was being really clever.  His leak of a de facto amnesty united everybody against him for  gratuitously failing to  consult them and put victims first.  But he’s only done what he said he’d do a year ago. Therefore why the furtive briefing? It had all the cheek of John F Kennedy appointing his little brother US Attorney General.  “ I  opened the back door at midnight and whispered, “ It’s Bobby!” Look again. Lewis has grudgingly united …

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Vocational skills: Northern Ireland’s core economic weakness

Never mind Bill Clinton saying, ‘it’s the economy, stupid’, the answers to Northern Ireland’s difficulties are instead perhaps Tony Blair’s mantra, ‘education, education, education’. In fact, the main way to tackle the economic problems of Northern Ireland are arguably to focus on education and skills.  Seamus McGuinness, research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute, discusses the weaknesses of Northern Ireland’s education and skills system in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast. Although ESRI is based in Dublin, Seamus …

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Looking forward, there is reason to think Northern Ireland is becoming comfortable in its own skin…

Andrew Clarke is a DUP Councillor in Mid and East Antrim. Late in 1786, a plough pushed its way through Ayrshire fields. Brittle frosts had yet to kill the gentleness of summer, and the soil yielded easily. The plough’s great keel crashed through a simple nest, and its mouse barely scampered to safety. The misfortune of the simple creature moved the ploughman – one Robert Burns – to pity. Yet on reflection, Burns concludes his own plight is worse, burdened …

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