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

“The relationship between the two governments hasn’t been everything it should have been…”

  Cue Arlene saying it is all over, “in our view, there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an executive being formed”. Her Majesty’s government, “to set a budget and start making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals and infrastructure”. As the UUP leader pointedly noted Tuesday, the no deal came after 402 days of deadlock. From what I can figure, the idea for three interlocking acts came from a senior civil servant, possibly the same one … Read more

London and Dublin must clear their lines for close cooperation on direct rule

Clarity rather than coyness is now needed over moves toward direct rule. Working on its  scope and duration is one more compelling reason for London and Dublin  to stick together.  On Monday at the otherwise disastrous Stormont meeting, Theresa May and Leo Varadkar pledged “to work together on a new plan on how to achieve a frictionless Irish border.” Good luck to them with that. On the continuing local stand-off, two elements are essential. Enough action must be taken to … Read more

Despite the political stalemate, are most of us neithers?

More people in Northern Ireland identify as ‘neither’, than as unionist or nationalist. I did a double take when I read this in Katy Hayward’s Guardian piece yesterday. It doesn’t feel like it right now. It couldn’t possibly be true? It’s true. Here are the latest figures. This isn’t reflected in the way we vote though. So, does this mean the neithers are secretly at loggerheads? Probably not. In Katy’s words, “The electoral dominance of Sinn Féin and the DUP … Read more

The need for an agreed history…

“History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake”. Oh Mr. Daedalus, if only you had been in Northern Ireland in 2018. History is everywhere in our political reality, and also somehow nowhere. It is slippery and vague, not unlike the content of a nightmare the moment the dreamer jolts awake. I turned 18 a few weeks before I voted for the first time, and that vote was on the Belfast Agreement. It was, to me, … Read more

The fallout continues………

Today’s developments, starting off with Sinn Fein President, Mary Lou McDonald (I have highlighted key bits); The DUP leader brought this phase of negotiations to a close and said “there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an Executive being formed”. “It is up to Arlene Foster to explain this given that the DUP and Sinn Féin leaderships had achieved an accommodation across the issues involved. “In fact we had a draft agreement by the end of last … Read more

Next time, the governments must not leave it entirely to the DUP and Sinn Fein in secret

It would have been a remarkable feat if the DUP and Sinn Fein could have  struck a deal  in secret, alone and unaided.  Secrecy may be essential for last moves to reach a compromise. But over a year none of the ground had been prepared with the public and it showed. The background was too noisy – RHI, the sudden illness and death of McGuinness, minority governments in London and Dublin with other fish to fry, including monumentally,  the throwback … Read more

Was an Irish Language Act really a bridge too far?

What a week. The DUP Leader, Arlene Foster has brought the curtain down on the current round of talks. It is commonly assumed that selling a stand alone, Irish Language Act is just something that would be a bridge too far for any Unionist leader. However, just taking a stroll down memory lane I wonder is this actually a fair representation of where Unionist voters actually are. Do I think they want an Irish Language Act? No. Would it be … Read more

Arlene’s Valentines Day Massacre

Today could not have turned out any bigger a mess for the incumbent DUP Leader and would-be First Minister. If sources are to be believed the Fermanagh MLA was ready to sign off on a deal which would have seen 3 Bills introduced : An Irish Language Bill An Ulster Scots Bill A Joint Respect Bill What has happened since the weekend to put the Stormont train off the rails? A DUP Group meeting on Monday morning, 3 days of … Read more

“The balance underpinning this place is that Nationalism and Unionism must work together…”

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood on the breakdown of the talks… “For 13 months the public have been without a government, without any change and without any power. Despite interventions from the SDLP, the DUP and Sinn Féin have kept people here entirely in the dark. It appears this negotiation has now failed. There is only one way through which the public can judge this failure – the details of this deal must now be published. As the party most centrally … Read more

For a political deal ever to emerge, mutual ignorance needs to faced and mutual respect observed

Mick has rightly just pointed out how tantalising easy the language issue could be to solve, were it not for the politics that expresses a far deeper  mutual ignorance ( in both senses) than is often recognised and which 20 years of supposed power sharing has failed to reduce.  Politically there must be limits to the management of the voluntary apartheid state we appear to be creating before cohesion collapses altogether.  That moment may not be as far off as … Read more

“I respect the Irish language and those who speak it but in a shared society this cannot be a one-way street”

So now we know. Sinn Fein’s refusal to countenance the three-Act solution means no deal is possible. No deal means Sinn Fein will continue their boycott of Stormont. Here’s the DUP Leader’s statment from this afternoon… For almost four weeks, we have been engaged in intensive negotiations with Sinn Fein. We have attempted to find a stable and sustainable basis for restoring devolution. Those discussions have been unsuccessful. Despite our best efforts, serious and significant gaps remain between ourselves and … Read more