The last bastion of Ulster Unionism in Belfast is teetering on the brink…

At it’s zenith – possibly due to what some might call the electoral dividends of delivering peace in Northern Ireland – the UUP polled 25,272 across the 4 Belfast Constituencies, polling 9,620 and 9,533 in East and South Belfast respectively. However, by 2007, the UUP had shed over 10,000 votes in the Belfast Area with sharp declines in East and South Belfast bringing the vote share across Belfast to 15,145. Just last May, the UUP share had fallen to it’s … Read more

Have [or how] the DUP made a United Ireland more likely?

Fintan O’Toole seems to think so. He argues in his column in the Irish Times that the party’s shady dealings – the Iris Robinson affair, the NAMA scandal and the Cash for Ash debacle – make the DUP look like Fianna Fáíl’s northern branch. While the ‘Brexit spree’ gambled the future of NI within the ‘UK’. As O’Toole puts it: “Before it embarked on its Brexit spree, Northern Ireland was becoming a surprisingly stable political entity. For the first time … Read more

Theresa May holds the initiative as she makes promises on an open border

While the world is transfixed by Trump, we made a little quiet progress on the interlinked politics of Brexit and the future of the Assembly. What did we get from Theresa May’s immersion in the generally anti-Brexit atmosphere of the joint ministerial committee and a summit with Enda Kenny? A warm gesture of commitment,  that’s what, riding above the divisions which leave her unfazed for now  and  rather more than we might have expected,  in the form of an article … Read more

“on behalf of all those other people you let down by not being good enough to win the election…”

With kind permission of Tom Harris, the former Scottish Labour MP for Glasgow South, this is a posting from his Facebook page. It’s an important ‘dry your eyes’ corrective to beaten political parties, to get over themselves and a reminder that politics is competitive for good reason: There’s a lot of anger among my friends in the Labour Party and in other parties, and among people of no particular party allegiance. Anger at the Tories, their welfare reforms, their budget cuts, anger … Read more

“‘Marlene’ seemed like marital bliss, albeit a one-sided relationship…”

Important perspective from Tom Kelly in the Irish News yesterday, as the sectarian tensions are racked up by the big two (or the old firm as we might call them?)…   As embarrassing as the RHI scheme is from a governance point of view, that it happened is normal within administrations which get lazy, arrogant and complacent. Following the assembly elections in May 2016, both the DUP and Sinn Féin felt they were unassailable from a political point of view. … Read more

“Will he spell out how much the US President and/or the Trump Organisation has donated to the party?”

I don’t usually publish whole pressers, but this interestingly provocative from Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins (Adds: in response to this earlier statement from Adams presumably) “Gerry Adams, in common with most other right thinking people, condemns the travel ban initiated in recent days by US President Donald Trump. However, he has gone further than most others and called for the removal of Pre Clearance for US travel at Dublin and Shannon airports, adding significantly to travel time for Irish … Read more

Why Slugger (and NI) needs more female voices (and thran ones at that)…

If you could, by use of some clever algorithm, develop a truly democratic voice, representative of almost any demos in the west, it would speak in a slightly female tone. The absence of women in public life is (or should be) perplexing to anyone with decent democratic instincts. Outside the Scandinavian countries, (where the whole democratic process seems much less problematical) it seems to be a pervasive issue. Too often we are content to play along with politics of public representation rather than democracy. … Read more

Caring for Carers? – 4 Corners, Cliftonville Football Club, and Rethinking Public Policy

The value of carers’ contributions to Northern Ireland is similar to that of the entire 2016/17 Stormont health budget – but is our Government investing in improving their circumstances? This year’s 4 Corners Festival (3-12 February) is highlighting carers’ contributions to our society through a banquet at City Hall for people who provide full time care for friends or relatives. Last week Cliftonville Football Club pitched in with a £1,000 contribution to the banquet. A meal at City Hall is … Read more

Are women making their mark in political leadership?

Regardless of whether you agree with their politics or not, the appointment of Michele O’Neill as Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland should be welcomed. Northern Ireland, potentially, could have female First and Deputy First Ministers. Of course that depends on how votes are cast on 2 March, however we now have women leading our two largest parties and if nothing else, it shows that it is possible to reach the top. Combine this with the leadership of Naomi Long … Read more

Theresa May is unmoved by Celtic frustrations over her Brexit stance

After Trump and Turkey week for Theresa May but with the aftershocks still shaking the bones,  Brexit week with the Celts must seem like an anti- climax. Despite all the warms words there is no sign that Mrs May is taking the pro-EU positions of two and half of the three devolved administrations even slightly seriously. The briefings before today’s Cardiff meeting could hardly be more underwhelming. We will not agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean we will shy … Read more

“That the 14th December agreement between the DUP and SF had fallen apart by Monday remains unexplained”

Probably the best forensic account of the long arc of the RHI scandal is by Slugger reader and commenter The Dissenter over on his own blog. It’s a useful corrective to much of the current (intensely popular) short arc narrative. In particular, he links this UTV report by Vicky Hawthorne from July 2016 when almost every issue raised by the Spotlight programme before Christmas was reported on in two minutes. This long perspective on where the government was by the time … Read more

Time to affirm the equality of the offices of First and deputy First Minister?

‘Only the DUP stands in the way of a Sinn Féin First Minister’ exclaims a Democratic Unionist leaflet regarding the forthcoming Assembly election. It comes complete with a bar graph that shows a small 5 percentage margin between the two parties. At first glance one would think that it referred to the number of seats each party holds – which of course shows a much wider gap of 10 seats. This is of course crude dog-whistle politics. And it works. Last … Read more

How we’ve reduced our identity to a Google Maps search

A Queen’s University student discovered some alarming home truths when he spent months investigating our addiction to the use of the blanket terms Protestant and Roman Catholic as a catch-all to describe the population of Northern Ireland. Roy Fisher, a print-maker and market trader who carried out the research for his Masters thesis, found that an increasing minority of employees who describe themselves as being of neither religion are still determined as being of one of those faiths due to Equality Legislation. … Read more

#AE17 Gossip: Gerry Mullan to stand as an independent in East Londonderry…

Unconfirmed as yet, but Slugger understands that Gerry Mullan, the retiring MLA is planning to launch his candidacy in East Londonderry after being deselected in favour of the previous incumbent John Dallat… Less certainly, it might be an idea to keep an eye on the party in South Belfast for how the second candidate Naomh Gallagher does (edited). We're well into the election campaign in South Belfast for our two fab candidates @ClaireHanna and @naomhgallagher 😁 #AE17 https://t.co/HKc6YOO4sV — Siobhan McAlister … Read more

Fine Gael on Sinn Féin: “We couldn’t work with them”

Something to keep in mind when criticising others…  There was a bit of a kerfuffle following Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s mid-term non-answer to a question on the potential for any future coalition involving Sinn Féin.  The Irish Examiner records Enda Kenny saying While strongly ruling out doing any deal with Fianna Fáil, Enda Kenny said “depending on the result you gave as a member of the electorate, politicians have to work with the result, so, Sinn Féin seem to be converted … Read more

The DUP have a point about an Irish Language Act but it’s smaller than they think – and small minded too

The journal.ie have done a useful bit of fact checking over contradictory claims that the St Andrew’s Agreement committed the DUP to “ an Irish Language Act.”  Their verdict: VERDICT The DUP’s claim that they never agreed to establish an Irish Language Act as part of St Andrews Agreement is true, as the legislation refers to the British government’s commitment to an Irish Language Act, not the DUP’s. Although they signed up to the St Andrews Agreement, this includes a … Read more

Good news, Gerry! The Human Rights Act is here to stay

Another of Gerry Adams’ sticking points for returning to the Assembly seems about to disappear. The on- off on sequence of the May government’s  commitment to a new British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Right Act now looks permanently off the agenda and not just delayed until after 2020, according to  Daily Telegraph sources.  Despite her frustrations with enforcing exclusion orders against militant Islamists, Theresa May has at last bowed to pressure from many sides not to pick … Read more

The Case for a ‘Foyle Free Trade Zone’.

Derry’s days as a regional transport hub appear to be largely behind it. In better times the city has served as a hub for shipbuilding, an international naval base, a thriving export centre and a key departure point for emigrants. Nowadays, the sole legacy of that is a small but important port facility at Lisahally.  Meanwhile, the town which bore witness to Amelia Earhart making aviation history 85 years ago contains a regional airport that survives largely through Council subsidies. … Read more

Suddenly there doesn’t seem to be that much time left for SF to fulfill its big promises of the past…

Two important things have happened in the last fortnight that have barely registered in a media preoccupied with a scandal that was already well on its way to being fixed before it hit our screens.  One really big one was the revelation that serial abuser of children in his care William McGrath made up a spurious connection with military intelligence. For most of my adult life Kincora’s been a byword for sleaze and cover up. Yet it was barely covered. … Read more

Be grateful for small mercies & scandals

This week in the Seanad we held a thorough debate on the current situation in Northern Ireland ahead of the upcoming Assembly Elections and the many challenges that lie ahead Beginning with an address by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan TD, where he laid out the Irish Government’s role and responsibilities, the House covered the many issues that will be debated with a serious focus on the major difficulties posed to the whole island by the UK’s decision to … Read more