Book review: Brexit and the bridge too far…

Walking the dog through the silent streets and avenues of an unusually deserted south Belfast, the scene reminded me fleetingly of Sunday mornings during the industrial, asthma-inducing nineteen fifties when there wasn’t a soul about. Everyone then would have been indoors in semi-darkness, putting down fires and making fries before the call of whichever church service they adhered to or simply ‘turning over’. Not so here and now. It was a bright morning, the air clear as a bell. Shop … Read more

Varadkar “words aren’t enough” to avoid a hard border

Taoiseach – “Words aren’t enough” to avoid a hard border. Says there must have an agreement on customs union & regulatory alignment. “Its not good enough to say there won’t be a hard border because nobody wants one.” #brexit pic.twitter.com/dLHoQZrwG5 — Darran Marshall (@DarranMarshall) January 16, 2019

“what a political party should never do, is to try to censor an artist’s work…”

Good from Brian Feeney, who put his customary Belfast bluntness to excellent use on that cartoonist-is-censoring-me story from last week: It turns out that Sinn Féin didn’t like a cartoon Spencer had drawn last year about Sinn Féin’s response to the Barry McElduff Kingsmill loaf controversy. At the time Spencer received a barrage of criticism from Sinn Féin but he replied: ‘The job of an artist is to observe events and point out hypocrisy and wrongdoing wherever it exists.’ True, … Read more

In spite of a day without precedent, it’s still party before country from the Conservatives and Labour

At the very moment Conservative and Labour MPs are passionately proclaiming the need to work together, the two parties are locked in the elemental struggle for power after a major defeat, a vote of confidence in the government. This is Labour’s ritual act to stave off having to commit to a policy. For  theirs is a unicorn with a mighty horn, a customs relationship that allows unilateral free trade negotiations and a single market relationship that restricts  free movement. On … Read more

The Meaningful Vote: Welcome to Political Bandersnatch

It’s hard to believe that Theresa May secured a draft Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union in November 2018. I feel as though I’ve aged 500 years since then. After weeks of parliamentary wrangling, countless amendments,a confidence vote and Sammy Wilson’s angry face on the television every night, the big day is here. I’ve written elsewhere about my thoughts on the Agreement. I would reluctantly vote for the Prime Minister’s deal. It is lukewarm tea, a soggy biscuit trapped at … Read more

Excuse the dampener -don’t be surprised if the moment of truth is postponed – again

To be fair, in her direct appeal to MPs “to take a second look,” Theresa May made a better fist at making the case for her Deal in the Commons  than she did earlier at the Doulton pottery in Stoke.  For the first time she was saying that the Scottish nationalists and the “Ulster” nationalists of the DUP would carry the can for a catastrophic result. As a proud Unionist, I share the concerns of Members who want to ensure … Read more

Nothing new to offer as Theresa May misfires the last shot in her locker in support of her deal

With her back to the wall Theresa May exposes  her own and her speech writers’ monumental ignorance of  UK devolution by bizarrely invoking the  creation of the Welsh Assembly based on a squeakingly narrow referendum result. as a killer argument   against calling a second referendum on Brexit.   What a pity that that she is such a poor  advocate  of what would otherwise be a viable proposal.  Extracts from May’s speech released by Downing Street last night show she will invoke … Read more

“Sinn Fein’s Arder Carson said that it was his democratic right to choose not to be painted…”

Or, indeed, not to wear clothes…  ANYhoo…  On Thursday The Belfast Telegraph reported Sinn Féin’s ‘farcical’ attempt to prevent Belfast City Council granting permission for local artist and political cartoonist Brian John Spencer to “sketch the Council Chamber and the Council meeting in January”.  At a Council Strategic Policy and Resources Committee meeting in December 2018 a Sinn Féin motion rejecting the request – which “would involve Mr Spencer being allowed access to the Chamber for a couple of hours … Read more

Richard Moore on Forgiveness – Launch of the 2019 4 Corners Festival

The 2019 edition of the 4 Corners Festival (30 Jan-10 Feb) was launched on Friday, with Derry man Richard Moore addressing a prayer breakfast at the Holy Family parish centre in North Belfast. The 2019 Festival theme is ‘scandalous forgiveness’ – something which has characterised Moore’s life. When he was ten-years-old, Moore was walking home from school when he was struck and blinded by a plastic bullet fired by a British soldier. He never regained his sight. But he has … Read more

Death to charity shops…

Forgive the OTT headline but such are my tabloid depths. I don’t actually want to get rid of charity shops. However. In an article on here by MurdockP it was highlighted how many there are on the Northern Irish high street as was their current rate-free status. From the outset this is no bad thing: empty shops, not being used and someone somewhere is benefiting from their kind deeds. So what’s the downside to this? Well, let us examine the … Read more

Plan for a border poll certainly, but as part of new British- Irish and North-South relationships

Deep in the last ditch before Tuesday’s meaningful vote, the UK government are warning that the DUP’s refusal to back Mrs May’s deal brings a border poll nearer. The warning was put into the mouth of Karen Bradley who political anoraks may just remember is the minister with nominal responsibility for Northern Ireland affairs. No 10 put out one of their coy little  briefings to say that she  “told the Cabinet” that a border poll on the reunification of Ireland … Read more

Children of the Ceasefire / 1

This is one of three winning articles for the Future Ireland series. The articles were submitted together – by three friends who met at college – a northern Catholic, a east Belfast Protestant, and a Dublin man. We liked the nuanced content of the pieces, the sense of identities in flux, and the fact that each tried to understand the perspectives of the others. Also how being children of the ceasefires weaves throughout their pieces. By Matthew Redmond – hailing … Read more

Children of the Ceasefire / 2

This is one of three winning articles for the Future Ireland series. The articles were submitted together – by three friends who met at college – a northern Catholic, a east Belfast Protestant, and a Dublin man. We liked the nuanced content of the pieces, the sense of identities in flux, and the fact that each tried to understand the perspectives of the others. Also how being children of the ceasefires weaves throughout their pieces. By Seanín Little Growing up … Read more

Children of the Ceasefire / 3

This is one of three winning articles for the Future Ireland series. The articles were submitted together – by three friends who met at college – a northern Catholic, a east Belfast Protestant, and a Dublin man. We liked the nuanced content of the pieces, the sense of identities in flux, and the fact that each tried to understand the perspectives of the others. Also how being children of the ceasefires weaves throughout their pieces. By William Clarence – from … Read more

“Brexit will sort itself out eventually, but its more lasting impact will be on what it did to Ireland…”

Acute observation from Patrick Murphy in last Saturday’s Irish News… A more far-reaching change has occurred in Irish foreign affairs. The Dublin government failed to recognise that Ireland’s relationship with Britain is different from any other EU state, because of historic, economic and cultural connections. When Britain decided to leave the EU, Dublin might have used those connections to become a bridge between Brussels and London. Leo Varadkar could have followed Reynolds, Ahern and Kenny to enter dialogue with unionism and … Read more

Uniting our Shared Island by Professor Colin Harvey…

The discussion of Irish unity is gaining momentum; Brexit has altered the nature of this conversation, as more people now reflect on the constitutional future.  The debate is already happening, and has been ongoing for some time. That does not mean Irish unity is any closer; it simply suggests a willingness to contemplate this option and to think through the implications. Work by, for example, Claire Mitchell, Andrée Murphy, Paul Gosling, Fintan O’Toole, David McWilliams, Mark Daly, Richard Humphreys, and … Read more

How will the PUL be accommodated in a United Ireland?

This week, we’re featuring submissions from readers on the theme of ‘Future Ireland: Alternative Conversations about Unity and the Union’. Competition winners will be published on Saturday. By ‘Danny Boy’. According to the demographics, there could be a nationalist majority within Northern Ireland in the not-too distant future, which some think will automatically lead to the re-unification of this island. So what will happen to all those people living within Northern Ireland who class themselves as being from the PUL … Read more

Ireland’s “baby bust” continues despite its buoyant economy…

Never heard of this term before today, but Dan O’Brien explains in the Indo: Over decades in Ireland, good economic times have made people more inclined to have kids. Slumps have done the opposite. That was to be seen in 1980s, when the Irish birth rate very suddenly started to fall. That coincided with the beginning of miserable economic times. The “long 1980s” only really ended with the arrival of the Celtic Tiger in the mid-1990s. The change in the … Read more