66.4% vote to Repeal the 8th – The North is next

Ireland was “Shocked, stunned, surprised” at the “unexpected” result of the referendum. Not perhaps by the fact that the Yes camp won but by the margin. There was no doubt before this campaign began that a majority of people wanted to see the eighth amendment repealed. What created uncertainty about the outcome was whether the public would show some reluctance through the ballot box due to the government proposal to allow abortion to be freely available up to 12 weeks. … Read more

Is an initiative imminent to restore Stormont? But are DUP and Sinn Fein ready?

Jeremy Corbyn will have disappointed any unionist hoping for a distraction from the  continuing political vacuum.  Deftly skirting the traps set for him by the DUP to meet (presumably mainly unionist) victims of the Troubles and uniquely denounce the IRA, he slipped in and out of Northern Ireland unscathed.  Instead he played a straight bat, declining to become a persuader for unity and backing a border poll only  “within  the terms of the Agreement”  and  rejecting  special status for Northern … Read more

What can Evangelicals learn from #repealthe8th

It was the closing celebration at New Wine in Sligo last summer, arguably Ireland’s largest gathering of Evangelical Christians. If you’re familiar with these events, the final evening is a vibrant celebration with bible teaching and vibrant praise and worship, with the aim of sending the masses out affirmed and emboldened in their faith. Arriving slightly late for the final event I walked past a table laden with hundreds of anti-abortion books. These were to be given free to everyone … Read more

Will Northern Ireland now look to the Republic for abortion rights – or Trump’s America?

On the face of it, you’d think it’s a non- question. It just couldn’t  happen in Northern Ireland where the direction of travel is surely  the other way. But in the States, Roe v Wade, the essential abortion law of the whole country, is under unprecedented attack from the conservative evangelical right, coalescing round the Trump coalition. Given the ideological split on the current Supreme Court, with five conservative justices to four liberal ones, President Donald Trump is one Supreme Court … Read more

Could we relinquish “the hand of history” by building a 21C Assembly away from Stormont hill?

When Tony Blair stepped out of the Hillsborough hothouse in 1998 and announced that ‘the hand of history’ was on the negotiators’ collective shoulder, he sounded just a little over-awed: ‘A day like today is not a day for sound bites, we can leave those at home, but I feel the hand of history upon our shoulder with respect to this, I really do.’ Now that the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement has come and gone, looking at … Read more

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future

Carla Lockhart, DUP MLA for Upper Bann, argues in favour of retaining the 8th amendment.  In recent weeks and months a passionate debate has been taking place right across Ireland on the subject of abortion. This Friday, a referendum will take place in the Republic of Ireland on whether or not the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution, which upholds the value and worth of both mothers and unborn babies, should be removed. In Northern Ireland, three councils have recently debated … Read more

With May’s border plan rebuffed already, is the UK edging towards the single market as well as a customs union?

The gloves are off  with weeks to go before  the terms of  the UK’s withdrawal are supposed  to be presented  to EU leaders. In the most scathing briefing of its kind that  I can recall, a “senior EU official” has dismissed  Theresa May’s plan for  a British backstop  for remaining aligned  to the customs union as “fantasy” even before it’s  tabled. In turn the British complain of being insulted. To cap it all the  two sides are locked in a … Read more

May bids to extend the Northern Ireland backstop to the whole UK to buy time to solve the border problem

The Times reports the latest wheeze for sorting the border problem. The clear implication is that the UK government are admitting  that neither of their  transition ideas for a customs partnership or “max fac” will fly. But does it do any more than kick the can further down the road? Theresa May will ask the European Union for a second Brexit transition period to run until 2023 to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Britain will propose another transition covering customs and … Read more

Meanwhile in Scotland, courtesy of Brexit, the long march to Indyref2 is about to begin

Tomorrow Nicola Sturgeon will unveil the SNPs economic case for  another independence campaign.  As it will focus attention on Scotland’s sluggish economic performance under an SNP government on the defensive, it’s a high risk strategy. Support for Indyref2  would first exploit resentment that the UK government has given no weight to the  big Remain majority in Scotland and will ignore  the Scottish Parliament’s  refusal to give consent to a Withdrawal Bill   that would fail to devolve powers over agriculture and fishing  … Read more

The 8th Across the Sea: Irish Women in Britain on the Abortion Referendum

Tomorrow voters in the Irish Republic go to the polls, on the question of whether the Eighth Amendment to the country’s constitution (which guarantees the unborn the right to life, thus outlawing abortion in the country) should be repealed. The question has of course been debated across Ireland for long before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised the referendum shortly after he took office last June. The debate is also raging among Irish women based in Britain. What do they think of … Read more

Unionism’s “inclusiveness” must have passed me by

Born in November 1998, I am technically a “post-Troubles” baby, a child of the “new Northern Ireland”. I have never known the routine bomb scares and checkpoints that my parents knew; unlike their generation, I am unaccustomed to seeing a soldier in uniform. I became aware of politics around the beginning of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness’ time as first ministers; those halcyon days. Still somewhat on a high from the Chuckle Brothers era of Paisley/McGuinness, there was an air … Read more

#RebootPod: Ireland’s housing problem from a sustainability point of view

#RebootPod podcast is for policy-minded optimists, co-hosted by Dublin-based Rory Hearn and Tony Groves and is focused on seeking solutions, rather than restating old misery. They started with Mick Byrne, who lectures in political economy at UCD and focuses on breaking the negative narrative cycle and looking for sustainable solutions to the housing crisis.

A border poll will not just be about the choice between the union and a united Ireland. Any border poll will be a referendum on Northern Ireland itself

Northern Irish politics has been all about polls for the past week. According to the Times, Theresa May isn’t too confident that unionists would win a border poll. The Prime Minister is that cack-handed people worried she’d triggered a border poll by accident. She hadn’t. Then, on the 21st May, two polls by ICM and MORI were released that showed support for the union, but with caveats that should keep unionists on their toes. The prospect of a border poll … Read more

Loneliness as bad for health as long-term illnesses such as diabetes or high blood pressure

Many years ago we had an elderly neighbour who used to while away the hours sitting in the waiting room of the local doctor’s surgery. She was not sick, just there for the company. She would happily sit and knit and chat with the other patients as they waited. As the Americans would say, it was a win-win all round – she got some company, nervous patients got a chat, and the doctor was happy that someone was distracting people … Read more

DUP hard line on Brexit is shown to be at odds with supporters’ opinions, as tensions rise between Brexiteers and the Irish

As the days of Brexit reckoning draw near, rising tensions were on show yesterday at a conference held by the think tank  the UK in a Changing Europe to discuss the Queen’s University report and survey, Northern Ireland and the UK’s exit  – what the people think. Differences between Brexiteers and the Irish side were gaping wide. There was no meeting of minds over the UK’s options for withdrawal. A particular test case was over the feasibility of technology to keep … Read more

MPs urge the UK government to end “untenable” inaction over the absence of Stormont after the Bank holiday. But who believes anything will happen?

The call by the NI  select committee of MPs  to secretary of state Karen Bradley to “redouble” her efforts to restart talks aimed at restoring devolution has a ritual flavour about it. There seems no appetite for action on this front while the two governments are in  stand-off over the UK’s long awaited proposals  for exit and  backstop which are due to be submitted by the EU next month and agreed in October. The MPs also said she must outline … Read more

High stakes for Northern Ireland in abortion referendum

The Republic of Ireland’s referendum on whether to overturn its near-total constitutional abortion ban is already having an impact in Northern Irish politics, and the outcome on Friday is crucial. That’s the takeaway from Slugger O’Toole deputy editor David McCann in a special episode of The Irish Passport podcast from Belfast. Have a listen here.  

Four parties issue a joint statement on Brexit.

Four party leaders representing 49 MLAs have penned a joint statement on Brexit. On 23rd June 2016 citizens voted to remain within the European Union. Despite this, the British Government intend to exit the EU in March 2019. Sinn Féin, Green Party, Alliance and the Social Democratic and Labour Party all share the common position that we should stay within both the single market and customs union and that there should be no hard border on the island of Ireland … Read more

Reimagining the Union has begun. They have it all to do

Conservatives thinkers are hard  at work to make the long overdue case for the Union, now dubbed “the Union state,” after the unexpected shock  that still lingers (in England certainly) of discovering that devolution had whetted appetites for Union breakup and Brexit, you might think, makes their task more difficult.  So far their ideas  circumvent nationalism, described here as exaggerated “ identity politics,”  rather than tackling nationalism head on.  Although they  claim for the Union  “binding values”, they  recognise Gordon … Read more