President Higgins pulls out of City Hall Dinner

President Higgins has pulled out of the civic dinner to be held at Belfast City Hall to commemorate the Easter Rising. However according to the Irish News; It is understood the fact the occasion has not garnered enough cross-party support, with a number of unionists declining invitations, motivated the president’s decision to stay away. Commenting about the decision, Lord Mayor Arder Carson said; I am extremely disappointed that the President is no longer attending this event, part of our Decade … Read more

Perhaps the Irish kept changing the question because the British weren’t listening?

At Conservative Home, Dan Hannan nails something crucial, I think, in how the British mishandled Ireland throughout the century which followed the Act of Union… It is hard to read the history of Britain and Ireland without wanting to weep at the missed opportunities. For more than a century, Westminster had played catch-up in its Irish policy, always addressing a previous problem. By the time religious equality was proclaimed in 1829 (something Pitt intended as a parallel to the 1801 … Read more

Department of Health announce new guidelines on abortion in N Ireland

Good Friday this year was on March 25. March 25 is also Lady Day, the Feast of the Assumption, when Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to tell her that she was with child. So you might well think it a strange, tactless, day for the Department of Health to announce new guidelines on abortion in N Ireland. Perhaps they thought it was a a good day to slip out news, perhaps the commemorations of the Rising would overshadow the … Read more

In defence of John Bruton

It was brave of former Taoiseach John Bruton to chose last week to return to the ultimate Irish counterfactual. He’s taken to task for it in the Irish Times by historian Dr Brian P Murphy OSB I believe,” said Bruton, “Ireland would have reached the position it is in today, an independent nation of 26 or 28 counties, if it had stuck with the Home Rule policy and if the 1916 rebellion had not taken place.” the choice to use … Read more

May’s #AE16 could be a precursor to a more open and competitive contest in 2020…

Apart from in West Belfast, there’s not currently much in the ‘big politics’ column for the elections in May. The Lucid Talk figures are remarkably stable (it’s a relatively stable methodology), which doesn’t suggest there’s any kind of democratic tumult. In unionism, there’s speculation about who’ll get Basil McCrea’s seat, his former partner, John McCallister looks set to be squeezed out in a tough three-way battle for two Unionist quotas in South Down, and in East Londonderry Claire Sugden faces … Read more

Water charges to become an intractable feature of the Republic’s future landscape?

Post-election, Irish Water is playing something of a rearguard action. In its own legal advice was leaked to the Irish Times suggests that any wriggle room for getting rid of Water Charges has disappeared… “The benefit of the derogation has been lost for all time, and cannot be revived by seeking to reverse the decision to introduce charges. “A very limited derogation to this default position is allowed . . . if it is established practice not to recover the … Read more

Passing sentence on capital punishment

Next Sunday is International Anti-Death Penalty Day. OK, I’d better qualify that one: it won’t actually be International Anti-Death Penalty Day, but to my mind it ought to be. On that date it will be exactly eighty years since an immigrant German carpenter was sent to the electric chair in Trenton, New Jersey. The previous year, 36-year-old Bruno Richard Hauptmann had been convicted of the kidnapping and murder in March 1932 of Charles Lindbergh jr, the 20-month-old son of popular … Read more

Dissidents on the wrong side of the tracks – and history

The mind of the Republican dissident must be a very dark and dilapidated place, bereft of ideas and locked into a grim past. No hope and nothing to offer, except a return to what they might consider as the golden days of bombing, shooting and wrecking. While most of us are trying to move – however hesitantly – forward, they remain wedded to a creepily repetitive liturgy of violence and destruction. You might expect that sort of narrative on their … Read more

Tory Uncivil War based on Europe but continued on everything else?

The dust has begun to settle on the budget and Ian Duncan Smith’s dramatic resignation: not enough that said to know what is going to happen in the medium term. The episode was, however, much worse than the Omnishambles of the 2012 budget. It revealed a series of fault lines within the Conservative Party that do not simply relate to Europe but the coverings over which are cracking under the weight of that juggernaut. The Conservative Party like any political … Read more

Easter Rising 2016: Live and let celebrate

Last week a Muslim acquaintance of mine wished me Happy Easter. I try to remember to wish Muslims Happy Eid. I would submit this has parallels with how Unionists and other non Republicans should approach the Easter Rising celebrations. Christians can and do invite those of other or no religion to Easter events as a form of evangelism: I believe Muslims do the same thing. At such events an attempt is often made to “convert” the invitees to the religion … Read more

With hindsight should unionism have been represented in Dublin yesterday?

It’s a fair question. Representatives of unionism would have been warmly welcomed  to the reviewing stand in O’Connell St on their own terms which would have underlined the end of the old ambivalence towards the use of violence in the North. But perhaps this was not the moment. By common consent, reconciliation has not been impeded.  It was nationalism’s day, no matter  how you line up the variable geometry.   Our German allies do not attend Armistice Day (although Mrs Merkel … Read more

“I have met them at close of day coming with vivid faces from counter or desk…”

Not a comment on today so much as in point of deference to one Ireland’s (and Sligo’s) greatest ever poets, WB Yeats: I have met them at close of day Coming with vivid faces From counter or desk among grey Eighteenth-century houses. I have passed with a nod of the head Or polite meaningless words, Or have lingered awhile and said Polite meaningless words, And thought before I had done Of a mocking tale or a gibe To please a … Read more

Insurrection 1916…… a Unionist perspective

The Insurrection in Dublin during Easter 1916 involved less than 1,700 men and women. It was the brainchild and initiative of a minority, of a minority of a minority- a small conspiratorial grouping within the leadership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who had itself been using and manipulating the Irish Volunteers behind the scenes, who in turn had themselves broken away from the populist Irish (later renamed the Irish National) Volunteers. A group of self-indulgent individuals unrepresentative of Irish society … Read more

Donegal Republicans Received County Council Funding to Commemorate PIRA Members

It has emerged that after a full page advert appeared this week in a local paper across Donegal commemorating the deaths of IRA men since 1921 that these events have been partly funded by Donegal County Council. The Council funds had been supposedly earmarked for commemorations dealing only with the Dublin rising. The adverts listed names of IRA men under what was termed ‘Republican roll of honour Tir Chonaill command’ alongside Dublin rebellion figures. The logos of Donegal County Council, … Read more

Whose Truth Will Rise This Easter?

This Easter time many thousands of Christian people across Northern Ireland will gather to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. They will do so in churches, houses and communities where they will share the stories- as laid down in Christian Scripture- of that event some 2000 years ago.  Of those who gather, many will be convinced of the truths told in those stories. They will speak of it as a reality in their own lives and will have developed a whole way of … Read more

“The report’s Canadian authors made their numbers add up by using a ‘Tory island’ model of small government, low taxes, free markets and no debt…”

In the Irish News, Newton Emerson has fun with the recent Sinn Féin re-launch [and re-re-launch! – Ed] of the report they commissioned, under cover of the “Knights of the Red Branch Inc”,  of the benefits of an economically right-wing united Ireland. From the Irish News An academic study showing Northern Ireland would be better off in a united Ireland, commissioned last year by Friends of Sinn Féin in San Francisco, has been re-launched in Dublin and Belfast to immediate denunciations … Read more

Easter ’16, Once Again

DUBLIN—Here in Ireland, this weekend, Yeats’s terrible beauty becomes a centenarian. It might have had a letter from the Queen, were history different. It is a pleasing sign of recent Irish social change that 1916 is not being commemorated as a good-and-evil struggle, one with Ireland on the side of the angels—and evil Britain receiving its due comeuppance and ouster. Call this the Wind That Shakes The Barley view of Irish historiography. Consider halfway back, 1966, for something less nuanced … Read more

Easter & Innocence

Still trying to read all the books I got for Christmas I’ve been dipping-into a recently-published collection of poetry by a local priest. His works of short and accessible verse are mostly on matters that might feature in a country curate’s sermons, except for one, which retells a story from his childhood, his trip to Dublin at Easter 1966. He recalls how he “Felt at home beneath the colours of the GPO” Recalling a time when the display of the … Read more

Commemorating the archetypal History Man

The sub-title of a 1995 TV documentary said it all: he was an unusual kind of star. In his heyday he was capable of emptying pubs on a Friday night, simply by going on television and speaking his mind and explaining things clearly in plain, uncomplicated English. And how did this man make waves? By studying, writing and debating history. Alan John Percivale Taylor was born exactly 110 years ago. Amid the various anniversaries being marked throughout this year, that … Read more