Congratulations are due to the DUP and Sinn Fein negotiators. How can the DUP be persuaded to implement it in their own long term interests?

After rubbing our eyes several times, the first thing  to do about the 13 pages of  the Draft Agreement published  in full by  Eamonn Mallie is to have it recognised for what it claims to be.   As Sinn Fein has already insisted on its authenticity, the initiative now lies with the DUP.  Clearly the document was the hymn sheet the secretary state Karen Bradley was working off in her Commons statement yesterday , although she understandably  refused to publish it, … Read more

Has the model of the GFA itself resulted in the impasse?

Paddy Wilson is a Postgraduate student at Queens University Belfast and a member of the Workers Party.  On Monday, David McCann gave his assessment of the political impasse between the former parties of the Executive and made the pertinent point that; “when debating whether its’ a failure, let’s compare it to the alternatives, not the Almighty.” Outside the remits of any deity, the GFA is a creation of people. I don’t believe that any system or solution that we create … Read more

Is it time for the churches to become more Christian?

Cathal O’Hagan Just like there isn’t momentum for a re-prohibition on contraception; or mood for re-implementing a ban on divorce, the penny will soon finally drop that debates over marriage equality and abortion are not the way for churches to regain influence in Ireland. Churches can either continue with the prominence they give to so-called “moral” issues, or they can refocus on the core Christian issues of poverty, homelessness and equality to regain popularity, especially among younger generations. They can’t … Read more

Whatever happened to the ‘designated parents’ role in the Belfast Agreement?

As ever, the breakdown of Stormont, and the inability of the two main parties to agree on anything substantive is being treated as a novelty. In fact, when you put two ideologically rigid parties in a rigid system breakdown is merely the status quo. As Siobhan Fenton recalled with admirable clarity on Monday, the Belfast Agreement was the product of a liberal rather than the fanatical mindset that presently dominates thinking in both the DUP and Sinn Fein: The Good … Read more

Who Benefits from the Collapse of Power Sharing?

We’re unlikely to know for a long time exactly why talks on restoring devolved government collapsed in such spectacular fashion last week. It’s always worth asking, in those circumstances, ‘cui bono?’ A long-term collapse in devolved arrangements, and a return to Direct Rule, whether or not it is acknowledged as such, would seem at first blush to benefit the DUP, at least in the short term. It also represents a significant shift in power within the DUP, away from Foster … Read more

Reform and Review of the Agreement is Possible – Let’s Have It

Councillor Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston, from the Progressive Unionist Party, explains the thinking behind their ‘Review and Reform’ document, published yesterday. This week the Progressive Unionist Party has published and distributed, to the Secretary of State and Northern Ireland’s political leaders, its proposals for review and reform of the institutions set out within the Good Friday Agreement. The document, which can be read in full here:, sets out our rationale for enabling a review. It cites strand one, subsection thirty-six, which reads; … Read more

Care is needed to stop the wheels coming off the Good Friday Agreement

I suppose it was inevitable. On the fringes of Westminster politics the alignment of Leave with a Brexit Union and Remain with support for the GFA is hardening, as shown in reaction to the failure so far to restore Stormont. This is what happens when people dip into the issues and pull out again. Living with them requires steadiness. Former secretary of state, stout Brexiteer and Shropshire lad Owen Paterson tweets that the GFA “has outlived its use.” Kate Hooey, … Read more

Some Community Guidelines and FAQ

On some days we get thousands of comments a day on Slugger: some of them come in at essay length. It’s impossible to get through every single one. But we do want to create a high-quality forum for debate here. In order to keep the standard high, we have some rules to discourage the abuse that ruins so many online conversations. Our aim is to provide a outlet for considered, considerate comments, encouraging creative conflict, shared understanding and at very … Read more

Meanwhile on Brexit … the British fog may be about to lift a little

Don’t get too excited, but this really could be a significant week for achieving greater clarity on British government aims for Brexit. The fiercely   anti-Brexit FT reports that on an awayday at Chequers on Thursday, Theresa May will nail her ministers’ hands to  the table  (well, the FT didn’t quite put it that way) until they agree on a high level of alignment between the UK and EU rules. Haven’t we heard something like that before? Oh yes, December’s joint … Read more

Why the Good Friday Agreement has a future

The Good Friday Agreement has come in for a bit of criticism over the past few days following the failure to reestablish a new Executive. It’s natural, when you are at an impasse to want to review and perhaps chart a new course. However, whilst I share a frustration with the current political situation, I don’t share this idea that we need to abandon the Good Friday Agreement as if it has failed us badly as a society. Writing in … Read more

The draft agreement revealed: So far but yet so near

The cats have been let out of the bag thanks to the sources of Eamonn Mallie and Barney Rowan, (Sinn Fein?). From documents of “a dozen pages or so plus annexes and separate agreements,” we pick up the story below from a week ago last Friday. The secretary of state will no doubt be questioned on the details in a statement on the talks failure  when the Commons resumes tomorrow.  The Sinn Fein leadership will meet Theresa May on Wednesday … Read more

Threats and opportunities: Unionism, and a strategic consideration of Gaelic language legislation…

Another contribution from long time commenter Willow on why unionism should develop a strategic view of its relationship with the Irish language.. Assuming that nationalists are not going to back down on their demand for an ‘Irish language act’, unionism appears to be at a crossroads whereby it has to decide which is strategically more important: restoring devolution or avoiding Gaelic legislation. The seriousness of this situation appears to have dawned neither on the unionist electorate nor (at least publicly) … Read more

“We have a range of options available to improve our society, but we must control ourselves…”

Nice piece from Ed Brophy (from before Friday’s launch of Project 2040). He argues domestic choice still outweigh globalisation, and recovery arise from a positive focus on the future: Shortly after Peter Sutherland’s recent untimely death, Fintan O’Toole wrote an ill-judged piece about his legacy, where he laid the blame for the populist counter-revolution that gave us Brexit and Trump squarely at the feet of Sutherland as ‘father of globalisation’. In doing so, he missed the most salient point, which … Read more

As the 20th anniversary approaches, the contrast is glaring between the commitment and success of the Good Friday Agreement and the neglect and failures of today

Bill and Hillary Clinton may register a no-show at a conference called to commemorate  the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement on 10 April, the Sunday Times reports. Organised by the impressively branded Senator George J Mitchell Institute For Global Peace, Security And Justice at Queens University, the conference line up includes every surviving key figure from the 1998 peace settlement except the incapacitated John Hume.  If Bill and Hillary scratch, Tony Blair may follow suit. And then … Read more

The cultural change now required relates to Unionism’s leadership

In 1942, the principal of Strabane Technical College was a Catholic man by the name of Thomas Carroll. In that year, his name would feature prominently in the local newspaper headlines after he was sacked by the local education authority. His crime was to introduce Irish as a subject in the technical college’s curriculum. His dismissal was wholly illegal and led to large protest meetings in the town. Those speaking in his favour included both the parish priest and the … Read more

Parking tickets. Or here we go again.

Retail NI has issued their standard response to the news that 94,252 tickets were issued for unlawful on-street parking in 2017. Outrageous.  Over-zealous.  Clear and negative impact.  Neither sensible nor fair. They’ve said it all before.  Ten tickets “every single day” of 2016 on the Lisburn Road is apparently horrendously over-zealous.  It’s an unfair disparity. But Glyn doesn’t appear to understand something very very simple. Why would a road which is two miles long and is subject to Urban Clearway … Read more

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

Let’s stop rearranging the border deckchairs

The distracting haze of our daily media sideshow – such as a severed wheel clamp, Jamie Bryson’s travel plans or a loaf of bread – brings with it the side-effect of obscuring an otherwise glaring point about our political tug-of-war. As sure as a new day brings with it a new ‘issue’ just divisive enough to keep the airwaves full of noise and drama without the effort of digging too deeply, it will also bring more and more material in … Read more

Blind spots in cultural terminology

One long-standing problem in Northern Ireland is the fact that many things have multiple names, the choice of which can be both revealing and controversial. Derry/Londonderry is the most well-known example, and the name of Northern Ireland itself (or the avoidance of it) can also cause friction. However, such problems can be glossed over by simply ignoring the speaker’s choice of terminology, as it does not introduce ambiguity into the discussion. Less obvious are those things that do not have … Read more