Eastwood: Michael D Higgins A President For Us All

The SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood writes for us about why he’s backing Michael D. Higgins for a second term as President of Ireland As we enter into the final week of the presidential campaign, I wish to fully reaffirm my own and the SDLP’s support for the re-election of President Michael D Higgins. As a party, we have been privileged to know and to work with Michael D Higgins over the course of some 40 years. Throughout that period he … Read more

Phoenix from the flames. How should we redevelop Belfast City Centre? Free event: Tue 30th October 2018…

The recent fire at Primark has caused a reported 30% fall in shoppers in Belfast City Centre. Many people are asking how do we revitalise our city centre? Where is the place for smaller retailers? How do you encourage people to live in the city centre? What about services like schools, doctors, parks etc? How do you make a city centre that is livable and attractive to visit? To discuss these and other questions we will have a panel of … Read more

Theresa May is shaping up for a fight. I rub my eyes, but for the first time yes, she even looks like a winner

Anonymous briefings from Brexiteer backbenchers claiming Theresa May is “entering the killing zone” and “ drinking in the last chance saloon” have backfired as the prime minister goes on the offensive in the Sun  in advance of a Commons statement on Monday afternoon.  Breaking the normal protocol of informing  MPs first, her Sun piece is a departure from her normal defensive stonewalling and a sign of new determination  to seize the initiative. Reports that she’s facing a cabinet revolt sound … Read more

The odds are narrowly on May surviving the week and staggering through to a withdrawal deal before Christmas

By a long way, more of the public demonstrated for a second  referendum yesterday than were threatening the prime minister in lurid language with nemesis on Wednesday. Just now though, it’s the MPs uttering the threats ( at least to journalists), who matter more. One prominent Brexiteer is making a distinctive gesture. In a further headache for May, the former Brexit minister Steve Baker yesterday tabled a series of amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill, which is due in the … Read more

UUP Conference: “in a battle to save the Union from the DUP” – speeches & audio #UUP18

Listen back to and read key speeches. The UUP’s annual conference was dominated by messaging aimed at differentiating the party from its larger competitor in the run up to the local government elections. If the UUP are to arrest their general decline, it must be with a strong performance in May’s council elections at the expense of the DUP. That is the only test that the UUP will be measured against.

Nation-States Are Yesterday’s Politics – Let’s Review Our Terms and Conditions 

Global trends indicate that we are graduating from ideological party politics to voting based on personal priorities such as financial security. Trump’s America is the prime example. But, like their hurricanes, everything from the US eventually crosses the water and laps our shores. Unstoppable cultural homogeneity adds to this. With lightning speed our young people adopt the same fashion, music and patois globally. The extent to which this is manipulated by media giants, arms of government and lizard overlords is … Read more

Would “more time” bring us closer to chaos or breaking the backstop deadlock?

Will “more time” do it for Theresa May and the rest of us? The option of a longer transition is intended to provide more reassurance that special measures would not be needed to avoid a hard  border — even if the UK and the EU fail to implement a new trade deal by the end of 2020.   Because the EU is mildly encouraging,  the chorus of opposition  in Westminster is all the louder. Remainers are as dead against as Leavers  … Read more

“the contention that a backstop is necessary does not mean it has to be part of this exit agreement…”

Boats with EU, UK flags sailing in opposite directions

There are jitters everywhere. Some, but not all of it, driven by the proximity (or otherwise) of a Brexit deal. The Eurosceptics are talking up the possibility of a no deal. John Redwood’s interview on Morning Ireland welcoming the prospect won’t have done anything to calm southern nerves. Domestically, the Irish government had a torrid time, losing an independent member of the cabinet over failures in the rural broadband tender process. With Dr Michael Harty saying withdrawing support of the … Read more

The Deloitte State of the State 2018-2019 Northern Ireland Report. Grim reading but at least the photos are pretty…

Yesterday Deloitte launched their State of the State 2018-2019 Northern Ireland Report. Sir Malcolm McKibbin, former head of the civil service who has found a new home in the warm embrace of the private sector was on hand at the event to answer awkward questions from the assorted hacks and bloggers. The key buzzwords at the launch were Strong leadership and innovation, digital transformation and impending cliff edges in public sector services. From the Press release: Northern Ireland must rethink how … Read more

Only now are both sides realising that the backstop can’t be blagged away

In single interviews it’s entirely appropriate for the presenter to play the devil’s advocate role. But in a long and pressing interview this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme  with Irish foreign minister  Simon Coveney, John Humphrys showed I believe a basic lack of understanding of the EU/Irish position of the backstop which partly explains why it’s  such a conundrum. I’m pretty sure it was more ignorance than tactic. All Humphrys  could do to fill the time was to keep … Read more

Northern Ireland must rethink how public services are delivered to overcome the challenges ahead

The annual State of the State report has been released by Deloitte with some fascinating observations about the challenges facing a potential future Executive in Northern Ireland. On the lack of an Executive; The lack of an Assembly and Executive means that decisions have not been made on reform and transformation of public services, on economic and social policies or on major planning decisions since early 2017. In that time, ambitious health reforms have slowed, the economic gap between Northern … Read more

Belfast’s feminist film festival to host 4 days of films, discussions, panels across the city

“We want these important films to reach a new audience in Belfast and promote discussion about the things that affect women’s lives here and around the world every day.” Belfast’s feminist film festival – WANDA – proudly presents a second edition of exciting, diverse, new and retrospective films directed by women. Over four days the festival will feature films, panels, and a quiz at locations across the city such as Queen’s Film Theatre, Black Box, Beanbag Cinema, and the Accidental … Read more

Congratulations to Anna Burns from Ardoyne, winner of the Man Booker prize, for taking the stereotype out of Belfast

  “The day Somebody McSomebody put a gun to my breast and called me a cat and threatened to shoot me was the same day the milkman died,” begins this strange and intriguing novel that tackles the Northern Ireland conflict from the perspective of an 18-year-old girl with no interest in the Troubles” writes the Guardian reviewer . Except  it isn’t about Belfast, not specifically. Neither place nor  people are named in Milkman. I’ve just started reading it. This is a  dystopian society … Read more

The case for the Union is far broader than the DUP’s. But is it compatible with a good deal?

Nobody can doubt that Brexit has challenged the stability of the Union, not only in Scotland and Northern Ireland but in England too. In a lecture in London last night he entitled “The Nightmare of History, Brexit, Ireland and the English Revolution,” Fintan O’Toole warmed to his theme, familiar to Irish Times readers, of pouring scathing contempt over the Brexit case, which he dismissed as post imperial “imaginings.” If he’s right and  Brexit is creating a revolution at least in … Read more

What it feels like as a small business owner staring into the face of Brexit

Jonny McCormick is the Director of Rosseau Ltd and runs a podcast called Spoke.  I’m an eternal optimist. I always think things are going to go my way – that the chips will fall in my favour. The few times I’ve played the lottery I’ve been convinced I’m going to win. Every time I’m boarding an international flight I think I’m going to be bumped up to First Class. I remember the day before the 2016 Presidential election saying that … Read more

It’s neither breakthrough nor breakdown

I think we may safely say the point of crisis has arrived at last. It may last for some time. After the false optimism of Saturday, the backstop, the entire Brexit negotiation, the future of the government and the stability of the Union are all in play, as Theresa May “ branded the draft deal a non-starter”. The FT sums up the general gloomy view of the correspondents on Sunday night.. Brexit talks reached a dramatic stand-off in Brussels on … Read more

Ruth Davidson’s threat to quit changes the odds for the DUP

When the history of these fraught days comes to be written, the backing of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson for the DUP position may be seen as the single most significant move. Her message is potent; if Northern Ireland is differentiated from GB , why not Scotland from England and Wales?  And that’s a gift to the SNP  and the cause of Scottish independence. Details emerged this afternoon of the letter she and Scottish secretary David Mundell sent to Theresa May. … Read more