Failed candidates, don’t give up on your Assembly dream…

northern ireland, stormont, parliament

Selecting an Assembly candidate can be a fraught and tense business for many local associations but what does it feel like to be an unsuccessful contender? On Tuesday last I had the pleasure of putting my name forward to be the next Alliance Party candidate for the forthcoming Assembly elections. It turned out to be a hugely rewarding experience even though the result did not necessarily go my way. More generally, I believe that we should explore how unsuccessful candidates …

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NI universities come together for the Festival of Social Science 2021

Queen’s and Ulster University come together once again for the annual Festival of Social Science 2021. This year, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science in Northern Ireland will run from 1-30 November and will feature 21 free events organised by social science academics from both universities. The UK-wide Festival aims to open up social science research to new audiences by showing how such research has an influence on our everyday lives. Now in its 19th year, the …

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The UK government have a stronger hand in the Protocol dispute than their critics think

Lord Frost  Well, where are we on the Protocol?   As talks begin in Brussels which are expected to last  for months , Lord Frost says there’s a long way  to go.  EU vice president Šefčovič insists the EU has reached its limit.  Those are the public positions. Even the briefings are somewhat contradictory.  The Times hopefully reports that the EU is open to a compromise deal that would limit the role of EU Court of Justice in Northern  Ireland, with …

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The Siege of Queen’s University, October 1971

Adam McGibbon is a writer, campaigner, and a former vice president for welfare at QUB Students Union. Last year, the old Queen’s University Students’ Union building – with its decades of history – was pulled down. Few know that in 1971, 50 years ago this week, it was the site of a police and army siege, an incident which made headlines across the UK and Ireland – and involved a future British Prime Minister. BBC Rewind (login required) has preserved …

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Most significant thing today is the EU has recognised the Protocol’s drag on NI’s East West trade…

delivery, shipping, transportation

So, there’s some actual news today. My guess is that the EU’s announcement today of the compromises it’s prepared to make. Although much of it is still unquantified, the scope of the pragmatic changes are impressively wide. Some provisions, like medicines, are technically difficult to achieve and will take much more time, but the direction of travel seems to be in the direction seems to be freeing up distribution between Britain and Northern Ireland. There has barely been any acknowledgement …

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Demographic logic for a border poll is destined sink its own long term ambitions…

“The mountain is so formed that it is always wearisome when one begins the ascent, but becomes easier the higher one climbs.” – Dante, Divine Comedy, Purgatorio On Sunday I was part of a panel discussion at the Battle of Ideas entitled The Border Question: Can the Union Survive? It was lively, to say the least. The chair, Kevin Rooney, made sure there was plenty of time for audience questions. The venue, Church House, is integral to the grounds of Westminster …

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The start of normal politics in NI?

mind, brain, mindset

In my previous post (here), I described the rise of the non-religious in N. Ireland, showing that that there are now three main blocs as defined on a religious basis: And showed how a gradual trend has recently increased: I suggested previously that the rise of the non-religious was paralleled by support for the Alliance party. I’d like to look further into this, again using raw data from the Northern Ireland Life and Times Surveys (here). I entered their data …

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Choyaa: The UUP – Is the Former Empire Striking Back?

The Centenary of Northern Ireland has presented political Unionism with some of its most significant challenges, from dealing with a declining base, the Northern Ireland Protocol, an unenthused electorate, and greater political isolation than ever before, adding to this are the huge internal problems within both the DUP and UUP. This has all made the centenary year memorable if for all the wrong reasons. The UUP, in recent months, have been going through a transformation and following their party conference …

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The Union will not survive the end of the NI Protocol

I’m sure everyone must be feeling as exhausted and frustrated as I am to see that once again we’re back to groundhog day once again with the European Union and the UK launching into another period of tense negotiations. I don’t want to spend a lot of time going over what is currently going on when there is plenty of fine – and infinitely more qualified – commentary available elsewhere, except to say that it sounds like the UK is …

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UUP conference has seen the party talk well, but Doug Beattie must find a way to walk better

You cannot make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. After more than twenty years of political stasis, this old commonplace saying is now supremely applicable to Northern Irish politics (and all of it, not just on the unionist side). Judging from the subliminal imaging and aspirational messaging evident in the UUP Political Broadcast and Conference on Saturday, Doug Beattie must have disposed of quite a few political egg shells in setting a long overdue re-boot agenda for the party he …

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UUP conference – a party in love with their new leader #UUP21

Doug Beattie is in a good place. His party’s one minister in the NI Executive has a level of trust and reliability second only to Father Christmas. This gives the party leader some space to manoeuvrer, reaching out in different directions, exploring which messages resonate amongst UUP voters, potential switchers from Alliance and the DUP, and perhaps most valuably from non-voters. Party members praise his chairing of internal meetings. They say he uses his ears as much as his mouth. …

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Local political pressure prompts ministers to take action on UC (rather than just complaining).

Claire Simpson in the Irish News yesterday wrote about some last minute developments in regard to the £20 cut in universal credit: STORMONT is coming under increasing pressure to find the £55 million needed to mitigate against the cut in Universal Credit. Ministers will today discuss how to help low-income families after the £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit, brought in to support claimants during the pandemic, was officially withdrawn yesterday. The cut will see more than 130,000 people in Northern …

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In London this weekend speaking on whether the UK can survive a border poll?

crocus, flowers, purple flowers

On Sunday I’ll be part of a panel at the Battle of Ideas festival discussing the motion: The Irish Border Question: Can the Union Survive? The panel comprises myself and three others. Chair is Kevin Rooney, a native of Belfast who recently launched a new blog at Irishborderpoll.com advocating for a border poll as a way of expediting a the route to a politically unified island. Andrée Murphy is a Deputy Director of Relatives for Justice, a columnist with Belfast Media and …

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Make Irish teaching almost impossible and then claim there’s no demand!

mind, railway, platform

Réamonn Ó Ciaráin is Director of Education with Gael Linn. Here he argues that recent downgrading of language teaching in educational priorities is having a dilatory effect on the numbers learning Irish in Northern Irish schools. There is without doubt a crisis in languages in post-primary schools in Northern Ireland. It is affecting some languages worse than others. The Irish language is traditionally only offered in half the English medium post-primary schools in this jurisdiction. This because of historical and socio-political …

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Boris has 99 problems…

Not sure what magic Cassette Boy uses to create these videos, but they sure are very funny. Warning contains swearing. For those not into HipHop 99 Problems is a song by Jay Z. Boris Johnston delivers his keynote speech today at the Conservative Party Conference. There is talk he will raise the minimum wage which would be welcomed by low earners. New! Cassetteboy vs Boris Johnson 2021 #cpc21 pic.twitter.com/klsNSi0wir — Cassetteboy (@Cassetteboy) October 6, 2021 If this is a bit …

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“Five to 10 years down the road, we’re looking at Irish unification because the economic forces at work just aren’t going to be reconcilable with the political situation.”

ireland, connemara, nature

Some Unionists may have choked on their Rice Crispies this morning reading Margaret Canning’s story in the Belfast Telegraph – Reunification of Ireland is close, says top economist Posen. From the article: The reunification of Ireland will take place “within five to 10 years” because the conflict between politics and the economy under the NI Protocol is not sustainable, an economist has said. Dr Adam S Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said he believed there was …

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The protocol is being attacked not because it doesn’t work, but because it DOES…

bicycle, children, graffiti

Speakers at the Policy Exchange think that businesses in Northern Ireland have adjusted very well to the new situation. The issue for Unionists seems to be that they have adjusted too well and North/South trade has been increasing. Backing Brexit has forced Northern Ireland into an economic United Ireland and best of all business is booming. Can Unionists ever get out of the corner they have painted themselves into? Hey, stop laughing at the back… Quite the admission on the …

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Ireland commits to funding Enterprise replacement from 2027 – what about NI?

The Irish National Development Plan is a long document, and I have had little time to do more than skim it, but the key headline spotted by Jonny McCambridge and noted by Mick, one of the concrete proposals in the plan, is the replacement for the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise service by 2027. The branded Enterprise service was introduced by the Great Northern Railway in 1947, and at one time was extended to Cork.  NIR relaunched its side of the service in …

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Happy Birthday Flann O’Brien…

Had he survived, Strabanes own Brian O’Nolan would have been 110 today. Unfortunately, alcohol meant he barely made it to half that age, dying at 54. A surreal comic genius, his books are still popular today – most notably The Third Policeman. The Third Policeman was written between 1939 and 1940, but after it initially failed to find a publisher, the author withdrew the manuscript from circulation and claimed he had lost it. The book remained unpublished at the time …

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Dublin looking for partners as #SharedIsland Fund doubles and all island investment rises to €3.5billion…

shaking hands, handshake, teamwork

“The past holds us captive. Even when we succeed in giving up slights, grudges, feuds and pride, we cannot easily give up knowledge, memories and experience.” – David Amerland At the weekend, Colm Tóibín wrote scathingly of some southern politicians that “their talk of a united Ireland ‘in my lifetime’ is mystical blather; another example of politicians saying something they don’t mean”. Ouch. Yet, there are some political leaders in the ‘anglosphere’ who seem to be trying to reconnect to …

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