“Dissent is an imaginative act as well as a moral one….”

This long essay by Colin Murphy is essential reading for anyone who is even vaguely disturbed the group mind approach to the reporting of politics and other matters of public import. He begins by focusing on Ireland’s dangerous predilection for consensuses and segues gently into how the liberal consensus is misdirecting journalist into rash and early judgements on supporters of Brexit and Trump.. Speaking truth to power is something we’re not very good at in this country and culture. The … Read more

A woman in charge is not such a big deal. But two…?

When Sinn Féin announced on Saturday that Mary Lou McDonald was the sole nominee to succeed Gerry Adams as President of the party, no-one was really surprised. Over the last couple of months since Gerry Adams had announced the timetable of his retirement, it became clear that she would be the person most likely to succeed him. She was Deputy Leader of the party, after all, and what is that role supposed to be if not an apprenticeship? Let’s deal … Read more

Should we consider a directly elected Mayor for Belfast?

Watching the Sunday Politics this morning, I listened to Sinn Fein Councillor Deirdre Hargey and DUP MLA, Gary Middleton discuss the benefits of respective City Deals was could be on their way to Belfast and Derry. I wanted to throw this idea out into the public sphere to find out more about the process. David Sweeting has been examining the impact of a directly elected Mayor in Bristol; Here I discuss two findings that are likely to be of interest … Read more

McDonald to become Sinn Fein President on February 10th

This morning Mary Lou McDonald officially became the next President of Sinn Fein, she officially takes over on February 10th. Below are the remarks of her speech today in Belfast; I am proud and honoured to be nominated for Uachtarán Shinn Féin. I look forward to being ratified at our special Ard Fheis on February 10th. “I know I have big shoes to fill taking on the role from Gerry Adams and I know that is impossible but I have … Read more

The extra £1 billion promised to the DUP is still a card to play in the renewed party talks

Because of the DUP’s pact with the Conservatives, Nationalists chose to believe that the DUP have the Conservative government in their pocket and write off the secretary of state as an impartial mediator. But Sam Coates, the Times correspondent with arguably the closest contacts with the Tories,  throws a  different light  to reveal a much more complicated  relationship. Relations between the DUP and the Tories are under increasing strain amid uncertainty over when the £1 billion promised as part of … 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

It’s time for the pro-life movement needs to change its tactics

Lucy Williams writes about the current abortion rights debate  I remember my mother wearing them when my youngest brother was born. When I asked her about them, she told me they were just to remember how tiny her babies had been in her belly. But, I imagine, she just didn’t want to explain the details to a seven-year-old. Then in secondary school, they appeared on school blazers- the gold glinting among the house pins, prefect badges and boyband stickers. These … Read more

Dramatic turn over bid to quash the police ombudsman’s Loughinisland report

Pressure is mounting on  Mr Justice McCloskey to withdraw  from the hearing to  quash the police ombudsman’s report on the Loughinisland  murders.  The bid was made by lawyers including the recently  retired director of public prosecutions Barra McGrory. Last week the judge had already deferred a ruling to allow a new lawyer for the police ombudsman  to read himself into the case. This has turned out to be the former DPP. Newly instructed counsel for the Ombudsman, Barra McGrory QC, … Read more

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


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

Promised You A Miracle

In its first two episodes, Lisa McGee’s feisty sitcom ‘Derry Girls’  hasn’t been afraid to tackle sacred cows. But after making some jokes about Catholic schools, the Channel 4 sitcom finally went the full hog on Catholicism in episode three, bravely – or rather foolishly, depending on your point of view – inviting comparisons with the biggest sacred cow in Irish comedy ‘Fr Ted’. This week’s episode found the gang on a study sleepover for a history exam in Erin’s … Read more

In future struggles, unionists need to be both right and attractive…

On the day Sammy Wilson rightly apologises for his use of highly inappropriate language about An Taoiseach, Newton Emerson makes a vital point to unionism in his Irish News column… …the way City Hall operates is the way Stormont would operate without the petition of concern. Whoever could make common cause with the unaligned bloc, now including the Greens and occasional socialists as well as Alliance, would win the day. There was a timely demonstration of this last September when … Read more

Our son of a bitch

The headline of Doug Beattie’s article in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday illustrates how sloppy language and sloppy logic hinder rather than help the process of understanding. Leave aside the article itself for now; one sentence in the headline alone (“Republicans weren’t victims, they were victim-makers”) contains a prime example of both. Firstly, the sloppy language of “Republicans” fails to distinguish between the Provisional IRA and those people who never picked up a gun but would still regard themselves as Republican. … Read more

Martin supports repeal of 8th: “because it has caused real harm to the quality of care available to pregnant women at critical moments”

This is going to create ructions, not simply within Fianna Fail, but within the wider polity… Cue a huge Twitter storm, and a lot of upset not least within Fianna Fail. But his lead point is the damage the Eighth Amendment has done to women. A nod there to the Halappanavar case, which I would guess represented a shift in the tide in of public opinion. Then there’s been the case of the Kerry babies, and a reminder of the … 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

Belfast to retain its four Westminster seats in new Boundary changes…

Good work from David Young, of the Press Association… BREAKING – Belfast set to retain 4 electoral constituencies as part of major revisions to proposals to redraw boundaries in NI, according to a Boundary Commission map obtained by @PA – new map radically different to politically contentious 2016 plan to cut seats from 18 to 17. pic.twitter.com/CxzVCYjeKH — David Young (@DavidYoungPA) January 17, 2018 …the revised map that was accessible on the Commission website on Monday is significantly different. Belfast … Read more

The myth of trickle down justice

If wealthy people win battles to secure their rights, is it likely the benefits will eventually filter down to those without the same clout? I ask the question because while it’s a given that high earning women at the BBC are entitled to the same rate of pay as men doing similar work, it’s not necessarily going to do very much for their poorly paid counterparts within the media industry. Similarly if Hollywood cleans up its act and ensures that … Read more

Book your free tickets for the launch of the Civil Rights 50th Anniversary Programme with a keynote address from poet Michael Longley…

The broad-based 50th Anniversary of  Civil Rights Commemoration Committee, chaired by Professor Paul Arthur, wish to commemorate 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights in a sober, inclusive and reflective way. We want to seek to learn from what happened, to consider the significance of the Civil Rights movement for our society today and the continuing resonance of the issues which it addressed and the ideals which underpinned it. You are invited to attend the following events. All events are free but … Read more

Is the whole McElduff episode, the act, the debate and the resolution, the best we can do?

Alex Kane, the former UU press officer who writes for just about everyone, shared the benefits of his research on both sides with Irish Times readers this morning, before McElduff’s resignation. His point about “blind spots” was simple and deadly.

Read moreIs the whole McElduff episode, the act, the debate and the resolution, the best we can do?

West Tyrone – the numbers

Who would have thought that Northern Ireland would supply the first by-election of the House of Commons elected in 2017? We haven’t had a lot of parliamentary by-elections of late – this is only the fourth this century, after Martin McGuinness’s resignation from neighbouring Mid Ulster in 2013, Gerry Adams’ resignation from West Belfast in 2011, and Clifford Forsythe’s death in 2000. Indeed, the only other by-election in the last thirty years was in 1995 in North Down, caused by … Read more