#BBCNIDebate sees energetic exchanges & a broad range of issues discussed

The five main party leaders gathered at the BBC Blackstaff studio tonight to discuss issues such as RHI, Brexit, Direct Rule & cross community voting. Chaired by Noel Thompson, he very ably directed candidates and the audience through out the night. For me, the strongest performance was from Colum Eastwood. For parties like the SDLP, just letting people know that you are on the stage is an achievement and he did this in spades tonight. From the opening segment on … Read more

Can Nationalism bounce back in #ae17?

The Irish News Political Correspondent, John Manley has an interesting analysis piece in todays paper about the state of play within Nationalism He writes; Commentator Chris Donnelly has characterised this trend as the “nationalist malaise”. He believes its roots lie in the fact that the nationalist-republican community has become more contented within Northern Ireland. For those who believe changing demographics will ultimately deliver Irish unification, this electoral apathy is a deep concern. On the evidence of recent election results, the … Read more

There is no way for NI to remain in the EU after Brexit. Alternatives exist, but they all come at a price.

Last week, Kevin O’Rourke wrote in the Irish Times: It is logically coherent, if lunatic, to argue that Ireland should quit the EU and join the UK customs union. (Leaving the EU would on its own obviously not suffice to avoid a North-South border: our exit from the EU would have to be of the red, white, and blue variety.) It is also logically coherent to argue that Northern Ireland should remain within the EU, and I wish it would. … Read more

Aiken believes that the UUP could win more seats than Sinn Fein

It was a bumpy ride for Steve Aiken on Nolan yesterday. In politics it is a good thing to go into a contest with high ambitions but they also need to be credible. For information the UUP are running 24 candidates, Sinn Fein are running 34 candidates. UUP are at roughly 13 seats in a 90 seat Assembly, Sinn Fein are at around 24 seats. As for the DUP they are running 38 candidates and are at 31 seats in … Read more

“Which means, I presume, that both Sadiq Khan and Kezia Dugdale approve of the SDLP’s aspiration…”

George Kerevan offers us one of the more extreme possible outcomes, ie that Sinn Fein will overtake the DUP giving Michelle O’Neill the job of First Minister, but he also makes this rather elegant blow against UK Labour for its disciplining two NI members for daring to run in Northern Ireland: …the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that there are no Labour Party candidates standing in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections. Indeed, Labour has just expelled two of its … Read more

New Brexit bombshell. Irish citizen rights to live and work in Great Britain may change within a month, even for northerners. The answer so far- take out a British passport if you can, quick

My thanks to commenter Jag for drawing attention to a quite a different Brexit  bombshell from No 10 in the Daily Telegraph. The Prime Minister is expected to say that EU citizens who travel to Britain after she triggers Article 50 will no longer have the automatic right to stay in the UK permanently. They will instead be subject to migration curbs after Britain leaves the European Union, which could include a new visa regime and restricted access to benefits. … Read more

Scotland and Northern Ireland move centre stage, says Downing St. ” Save the Union” is the mission

Well what do you know? At the beginning of a very busy news week, the Times leads with a real revelation from right under their noses. After months of  patting the wee Celts on the head with bland assurances that Brexit will be fine all round, “sources “ now say that  “concerns about Scotland and Northern Ireland were discussed at last week’s cabinet.. and the impact of Brexit on the UKs devolution settlement is the government’s greatest concern about the exit … Read more

In which Zoe Williams, repentant Corbynite, offers some useful advice to @UKLabour…

Zoe Williams offers some good advice to UK Labour in this mornings Guardian:  The extent of the electoral loss in Copeland is a dead end: it was an open-and-shut disaster. There is no media conspiracy to make it seem worse than it was, no historical or psephological reading that can mitigate the loss, nor any mileage in balancing it against Stoke and calling it quits. But the hyena-like circling of the carcass of Corbyn’s plan is morbid; the delight of … Read more

A border poll can be held at any time

There’s widespread misunderstanding of the legal provision around holding a border poll which seems to rear its head not only on social media, but sometimes within the print media and even among the ranks of senior politicians. It’s an innocent enough situation, but it could become important in the period ahead as we start coming to terms with brexit and Northern Ireland’s relationship with Europe. The misunderstanding holds that, following the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, a border poll cannot be held unless there … Read more

Sinn Féin’s red lines? : “So you had the Irish language act, there was a thing called the bill of rights and there was another issues.”

Launching the Sinn Féin manifesto for the Northern Ireland Assembly election a couple of weeks ago, the party’s appointed ‘leader in the North’, Michelle O’Neill, declared that “You’d be very aware that I won’t be drawing any red line issues…” Since then she has allowed the impression to be created that the one ‘red line’ the party does have is the nomination of the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, as First, or deputy First, Minister before Judge Coughlin’s inquiry into the RHI scheme … Read more

Yanis Varoufakis: A Bizarre Champion for ‘Remain’

Yanis Varoufakis achieved very little during the short time he held public office. Therefore, it seems bizarre that he should come to Belfast to outline why Brexit will be bad for Northern Ireland or Ireland. Varoufakis’ attempts to negotiate more favourable terms for Greece’s monstrous debt, fell on deaf ears, in the few short months he was Greece’s Finance Minister.  He argued, and there was merit in his argument, that the Troika (the IMF, ECB and EU Commission), was heaping debt … Read more

It’s time to decommission words…

I remember walking past graffiti on a wall on the Falls Road around the turn of the millennium. In thick white scrawl it read, “NOT A BULLET, NOT AN OUNCE”. These words were a defiant prediction that there would be no decommissioning of weapons as part of the peace process. By 2010, however, all major paramilitary groupings had put their weapons beyond use. Some weapons were destroyed publicly and many more were buried in concrete bunkers. These acts of decommissioning … Read more

Martin McGuinness (not Michelle O’Neill) describes the DUP as bigots in Mid Ulster

My analysis of Mid Ulster is a little harsher for Sinn Fein than most. But I can’t see much bounce for the new leader since last June since Mid Ulster was the constituency of the previous SF leader, Martin McGuinness. They’re significantly short of three quotas too.  In their favour, they have an election machine second to none. Nor are they afraid to use marked registers to help them figure out who has voted and who hasn’t.  Despite the fact that it’s not, … Read more

Yanis Varoufakis: “I don’t believe there’s any upside for anyone from Brexit”

YANIS VAROUFAKIS – economist and former Greek Finance Minister speaking ahead of this evening’s sold out DiEM25 event in the Crescent Arts Centre – asked about the opportunities for Northern Ireland presented by Brexit, Theresa May’s options, his influence over Sinn Fein’s ‘reverse ferret’ on welfare reform and Northern Ireland’s splintered political left.

Friday thread: If you can use language to activate your world view in somebody else, you have power.

George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California Berkeley talks to Tavis Smiley of PBS about what cognitive science might tell us about how Donald Trump is leading the media down endless rabbit holes, and what they might do about it. Raising the subject of President Donald Trump may seem to be against the spirit of our occasional Friday Threads, which is generally a holiday from the tribalism of politics. But the Trump phenomenon goes deeper than politics. … Read more

“The potential to be the most important election in NI’s history?” A neck and neck result could be just what we need

“The potential to be the most important election in Northern Ireland’s history,” claims the peripatetic columnist Alex Kane, writing this time in the Newsletter today.  Alex is reflecting unionist collywobbles at the prospect of DUP/SF neck and neck. It raises the existential fear of the “known unknown” of unionist nemesis which is paradoxically more nerve wracking for many of them than  waiting impatiently for the conclusive  end of their long period as a minority is for nationalists.

Read more“The potential to be the most important election in NI’s history?” A neck and neck result could be just what we need

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

Could next week see a break through in women in the Assembly?

So will next week’s poll see the breaking of more glass ceilings for female representation in the Assembly?  Time will tell. But as we political nerds have fun tallying the possible final outcomes for political parties we should also look at potential gender outcomes. Foyle (0/1) Surprisingly Derry has only one female candidate placed to be in with a shout. Elisha McCallion the former Mayor of Derry and Strabane has a good profile in the city and has a reputation … Read more

SDLP candidate in West Tyrone facing a sustained campaign of intimidation…

The last SDLP MLA in Strabane was Eugene McMenamin had both his car and his home attacked. Like SF’s perils in Bangor, it’s the price of running against the thuggery of the post-conflict years. Now at least the abuse Daniel McCrossan is taking is not (yet) physical. But it seems more than virtual: “My car’s been followed, with photos of it posted online which is a bit of a danger for me being on the policing board,” he told the … Read more

DUP received £425k for the Brexit referendum

The wait is over and we now know how much the DUP received during the Brexit referendum and just who donated. RTE reports that; The Democratic Unionist Party has confirmed that it received £425,000 from a group of business people led by a Scottish Conservative party member and passed it on to help fund the UK pro-Brexit campaign. The money was used to help finance an advertising campaign in Britain during the EU referendum. The money was given to the … Read more