Getting up earlier in the FDI morning is not poaching Arlene…

All’s fair in love, war and politics. So Arlene Foster (who, let’s remember was actually on the overall winning side of the Brexit argument) reckons there is a campaign to poach investors south of the border. In one sense she is right. As John Campbell noted on Twitter picking up any future faltering investment in a post-Brexit UK is one of few compensating actions open to the Republic, and was marked as urgent from the start: Irish govt set out its … Read more

Was the ‘pressure’ on Mark Carney Brexit cabin fever, or just the media eating itself?

Really not sure what was driving the stupid speculation over the future of Mark Carney as Governor of the Bank of England, but as the Economist says… …this political pressure on an independent central bank governor is a great mistake. On the day after the referendum vote, the prime minister resigned and Brexit campaign leaders were nowhere to be seen; it was Mark Carney who stepped forward to calm the markets. He was the only grown-up in the room. Now … Read more

“I’m trying not to take The Fall personally.”

Guardian TV critic Stuart Heritage with a nail on head review of the “dead dog of a show” that The Fall became.  From the Guardian review Even by most recent standards, The Fall was dire this year. Now that it’s done, and Paul Spector is dead and Stella Gibson is back enigmatically muttering like a woman who lost her keys, it’s hard to fathom why anyone was ever excited about this dreary puddle of a show in the first place. … Read more

DUP’s victory lap celebrates election success, belittles Opposition, criticises Dublin & sets out Brexit negotiation principles

DUP CONFERENCE celebrated Assembly election success and demonstrated party unity as it poked fun at the Opposition, criticised the Irish Government, and set out the DUP’s principles for Brexit negotiations. The leader’s speech was light on policy – perhaps understandable in the vacuum before specific Programme for Government action plans are announced.

Battle lines re-drawn over new Casement Park stadium plan

The BBC reports that the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA) has said it opposes the recently unveiled revised GAA plan for a new stadium at Casement Park.  MORA campaigned successfully against the original proposal.  From the BBC report In a statement, the residents group said it supported a “suitable-sized redevelopment” that was safe, did not host concerts and was “part of the natural fabric of the community”. “The revised proposals for the redevelopment of Casement Park do not meet those requirements,” it said. … Read more

Soapbox – Is the same-old same-old is going to put us in more bother than usual?

MANY MONTHS AGO, Peter Robinson stepped down, his place taken by Arlene Foster. Thus, the Big House of unionism put their PR machine into overdrive to figure out how to make people vote for them, and came up with the idea of making Arlene look all progressive and friendly and able to take Northern Ireland forward … but without a single new policy to back any of the rhetoric up. That, of course, wasn’t enough.

Foster: Onward to the summit

Today Arlene Foster will speak to the DUP conference for the first time as party leader. Writing for Slugger she outlines her vision and plan for the next mandate of government  Detail is important.  For someone from a legal background like myself this is a given. Within the DUP Conference programme, there are details that are important to me and the direction I have set for my party and for Northern Ireland. In the conference booklet I make the statement … Read more

Green leader calls on DUP MLAs to show courage & come out in favour of marriage equality

Green Party leader Steven Agnew has commented on Arlene Foster’s recent statements about using POCs to block marriage equality. “I am therefore calling on DUP MLAs to show courage, to be true to themselves, to risk alienating their family, friends and colleagues, and to “come out” in favour of marriage equality. Their party conference this weekend provides them with the perfect platform at which to do so.”

Arlene defends Brexit, trusts Theresa and appears to see no need for solidarity with the Republic.

First Minister Arlene Foster has burst into print in the Guardian to explain how Leave is compatible with Northern Ireland’s interests. If nothing else, it marks her out as the first person of any prominence to do so. If Martin McGuinness and Colum Eastwood are alarmist, she is almost complacent and takes a lot for granted. Yet read carefully  she is still asking for special treatment for Northern Ireland and assumes she’ll get it.  Her message is “stick with Theresa … Read more

Northern Ireland High Court rejects Brexit Challenges

As the BBC report notes, the High Court in Belfast has dismissed two judicial review challenges to the way the UK Government intends to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union to trigger withdrawal from the EU. One of the legal challenges, by victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord relied on legal aid.  The other, involving Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Green Party and Alliance MLA David Ford, has been funded, directly or indirectly, as the News Letter reported, by US billionaire Chuck Feeney … Read more

Brexit heads the long list of opportunities for the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP to score together.

I always had a soft spot for the young SDLP. They were of an age, they were more fun to be with – and drink with – barring a few very honourable exceptions on the unionist side. And they didn’t go about being so bloody angry the whole time. They had leadership qualities, emotional intelligence and they had a life through all the pressures. They deserved better results. As their power disintegrated and their party split, Ulster Unionists tended to be more defensive  but there were many you could  do business with.

For those of us with long memories, the revival of a formal alliance between the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP (if that is what finally transpires), gives grounds for cautious optimism.   The idea has been as obvious in theory as it has been elusive in practice ever since power sharing was first seriously mooted in 1972. When they came together, as in 1973 and 1998-2002, they were outflanked by the polarising effect of violence or the threat of violence.

The UUs and the SDLP finally lost their leading role and much of their raison d’être because of Tony Blair’s frank admission that “you don’t have guns”. This was his explanation for elevating  IRA disarmament over the survival of the early Assembly led by the two “constitutional ” parties.  The idea that they should have jointly called for the alternative of  Sinn Fein’s suspension from the Assembly until the IRA disarmed,

Read moreBrexit heads the long list of opportunities for the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP to score together.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

Nissan statement suggests UK has no immediate plans for leaving EU customs union…

So, another attempt to block Brexit in Belfast fails. One of the problems the former Remain side has is that much as it has been scornful of a lack plan, it does not seem to have had much of a one itself. The big news yesterday was the fact that Nissan far from pulling out appears to be confident that nothing much will change, at least in the short term for large industrial concerns (financial institutions perhaps, not so much). … Read more

Cllr Graham Craig defects to the DUP

Another man overboard for the UUP as Botanic Councillor, Graham Craig defects to the DUP.  This is particularly bad news in South Belfast where the party lost their only seat to the DUP’s Christopher Stalford. Craig was formerly a SPAD to Sammy Wilson when he served as Minister for Finance and had some very harsh criticism of his former leader and party in the Belfast Telegraph. Speaking about her new councillor, Arlene Foster said I am delighted that Graham has … Read more

Foster says DUP will use POC to block marriage equality + criticises Equality Commission

DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster says DUP will continue to use Petition of Concern to block Equal Marriage legislation. In the same pre-conference interview with Press Association, she criticised the Equality Commission’s handling of the Ashers case, saying that they “need to have a long hard look at how they work with faith communities in Northern Ireland”.

Does the Executive have the will to make the tough decisions and face the consequences of real Health reform?

So after last year’s Donaldson report (saying clinicians should drive reforms and politicians take a back seat), we have this year’s Bengoa Report (commissioned by Simon Hamilton) along with the suggestion that the new SF Health Minister will do exactly that? The report’s ten-year time span and lack of specific actions (costs would be both too great a fiction and scare too many skittish constituency horses to bear publication) gives report the minimum required verisimilitude. Nolan has had great fun with the … Read more

Cllr Aaron Callan defects to the DUP

Limavady Councillor, Aaron Callan has defected from the UUP to the DUP.  He cites what he claims as the UUP ignoring his constituency and lack of confidence in his former leader as the main reasons. Speaking about his decision to leave he says; Some people may be asking why I have decided to leave the Ulster Unionist Party to join the Democratic Unionist Party.  I have thought long and hard about this decision.  It has become clear over the last … Read more

Naomi Long officially takes over as party leader telling the public “Vote Alliance and get Alliance”

No real surprises here but Naomi Long was officially endorsed by her party colleagues tonight as the leader of the Alliance Party. Long has previously served as the party’s deputy leader under David Ford and was the MP for East Belfast from 2010-2015. She has been credited for her work in building the Alliance party in her East Belfast constituency since she was elected to the Assembly in 2003. Speaking about her vision for the party she said; I am … Read more

State of the State Report praises the creation of opposition and has concerns about Brexit

Around this time of year Deloitte release their State of the State report which reviews the performance of the UK government and the devolved administrations. You can read the full report here, but here I wanted to highlight the reports analysis of recent developments in Northern Ireland. The report last year was critical of the stop/start nature of policy making within the Executive and the political impasse that had engulfed Stormont over welfare reform. This year however, the report is … Read more

New history talk series starts Thursday the 3rd November at the Duncairn Arts Centre…

On Thursday 3rd November a new talk series begins on the Antrim Road at the Duncairn arts venue, otherwise known as the 174 Trust. The series is called ‘Towards a divided island’ and it is focused on a close look at the next part of the decade of political centenaries, which is in fact the most difficult part to handle. Arguably the years leading up to 1923 saw polarisation, partition and daily violence of a kind not witnessed in Ireland … Read more

Brexit or Flexit, for a time UK politics will take sole control of the stage

There’s a plethora of speculation around Brexit and how it might affect Northern Ireland. For all the heartfelt nature of Brian Feeney’s attack on Arlene Foster highlightly the fact that she doesn’t represent majority opinion in NI – her Euroscepticism is aligned with majority opinion in the UK. And for the foreseeable future, so far as internal politics are concerned, it’s the only opinion that counts. UK Labour under their ingenue and (if news from their last regional bastion is … Read more