Brendan Kennelly 1936-2021

It’s been a sad few days for Irish literature as we note the passing of two notable Irish literary figures. Máire Mhac an tSaoi was not only a poet, but also an Irish language scholar, author and at one point a career diplomat. It is Brendan Kennelly’s passing that I feel the most, however. Coming from a scientific background I am no literary critic, but to me his work seems accessible, powerful, impactful and unpretentious all at the same time. …

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The Union will not survive the end of the NI Protocol

I’m sure everyone must be feeling as exhausted and frustrated as I am to see that once again we’re back to groundhog day once again with the European Union and the UK launching into another period of tense negotiations. I don’t want to spend a lot of time going over what is currently going on when there is plenty of fine – and infinitely more qualified – commentary available elsewhere, except to say that it sounds like the UK is …

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The Brexit Solution

After the end of the transition period The leader of Traditional Unionist Voice Stated at a fringe meeting at the Manchester Convention Centre That the manufacturing sector Had forfeited the confidence of Unionism And could only win it back By redoubled efforts. Would it not in that case be simpler To dissolve the manufacturing sector And appoint another? Brendan Headingcentre-leftish waffler working in IT and living in Belfast Alliance, but writing in a strictly personal capacity.

Belfast Rapid Transit (Glider) Phase 2 announced

This week, Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon launched the public consultation for Phase 2 of the Belfast Rapid Transit (Glider) system.  I think this is a welcome development and will improve connectivity, access to and uptake of public transport in the city.  I remember when Glider was first launched on the east/west route a few years ago. Before it got off the ground, it was fashionable to dump on it (a common pattern for public transport projects on this island). …

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How the NI Protocol protects the Agreement

To the chagrin of Unionist politicians, it’s often emphasised by the four governments (UK, Ireland, EU, and US) that the Northern Ireland Protocol exists to protect the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. For reasons which are understandable when examined in isolation, Unionism feels let down by the promise of the Agreement. I can see where they are coming from. The Agreement is based on cross community consent; the Protocol does not recognise this. British citizens are asked to …

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NI Protocol vs Act of Union : another Unionist strategic misstep looms

Today’s Sunday Telegraph notes : [..] The Sunday Telegraph can also disclose that Ben Habib, a former Brexit Party MEP, cross-bench peer Baroness Hoey, and Jim Allister, the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, are threatening a legal challenge against the Government to try to overturn [the NI Protocol].. There has been a persistent story, promulgated chiefly, it appears, by Jim Allister, that the NI Protocol could be a breach of the Act of Union. As a legal matter, …

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A border poll can be held at any time – redux

With border polls remaining a major topic of conversation, particularly following today’s Sunday Times/Lucid Talk reporting of a poll which found that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland wish a border poll to be held within the next five years, I still find that there remain widespread misconceptions around the Secretary of State’s powers to call a border poll. In particular, people still seem to think that the Secretary of State has no discretionary power to call a border …

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Irish unity : going nowhere fast

So how’s the Irish reunification campaign coming along ? According to Sinn Féin President, Mary Lou McDonald, there doesn’t need to be one, because it’s already been won. A few days ago, speaking to Owen Jones, McDonald said of a United Ireland : ‘We’ll do it in the next decade. We’ll do it in this decade, actually.’  This is an example of the nationalist equivalent of the ‘inevitability doctrine’ I wrote about a few months back. In my previous article, …

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On the doctrine of inevitability

The News Letter had an interesting article a short while back, reporting remarks by Alex Easton in respect of a border poll and the Irish reunification debate. It is not clear in which context he made his comments, but the headline is that he speculates that nationalists will “inevitably” lose a border poll, and recites a few other well-known tropes. I am not a nationalist, but I feel that his comments reflect beliefs prevalent within unionism around how people like me …

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Waiting for the Alley Gates

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum? The alleys are to be gated today. Why isn’t anything going on in the senate? Why are the senators sitting there without legislating? Because the alleys are being gated today. What’s the point of senators making laws now? Once the alleys are gated, there will be no further need for legislation. Why did our emperor get up so early, and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main alley gate, …

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Unionism: so what’s the plan ?

The BBC reports this evening the following remarks from DUP North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley: Northern Ireland will not be used as a pawn – we opposed the withdrawal agreement, we warned about this protocol, we said it would damage the integrity. “I am glad, maybe at the last minute, the PM has wakened up to the serious threat that this poses to the union,” he said. “If the prime minister has the mettle to finish the job I welcome …

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On high speed rail in Ireland (again)

Any time I hear the phrase “let’s build high speed rail in Ireland” I find myself able, without undue effort, to restrain my enthusiasm within the bounds of public decorum. This is not because I’m against the idea, but rather because politicians here have a habit of talking a lot about it while never actually doing anything to progress it. It has been in the news a few times lately, most recently following yesterday’s north-south ministerial council meeting; it also …

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“We were sold a pup with the GFA” – Sinn Féin MP

Writing on Twitter on Thursday, Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy made the following comment in response to commentary on the attitude of Taoiseach Micheál Martin on reunfication : We were sold a pup with the GFA no commitment from either Dublin or London to deliver for Nationalists or Republicans it was just a bluff. The Twitter account does not have verified status, but it is linked from Francie’s page on the official Sinn Féin website so it seems to be …

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Assorted thoughts on the realities of border polling and reunification

There is no question that the brexit process is having a seismic effect on the ties that bind the UK’s four constituent parts. The union has never been weaker, not just because the UK now has a government that clearly places little value on it, but also because the populations of Scotland and Northern Ireland are questioning its value in ever greater numbers. I’ve heard arguments – from supporters and representatives of one political party in particular – that these …

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revisited : owning and running an electric car in NI

nichola-mallon-with-ecar-600x400

Some Slugger readers might remember, back in 2016, that I decided to take the plunge and lease an electric car. Recently, more attention has been paid to this topic; BBC NI recently ran a few segments about it, and I noted at the end of one of the leader’s debates prior to the election that the leaders were all asked if they had plans to change to an electric car. Then, this morning, I noticed that the Department for Infrastructure …

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The downsides of no devolution for the DUP

Yesterday, the BBC reported details of an NUJ rebuke for the North Antrim DUP MP, Ian Paisley, following “unwarranted and unworthy” personalised remarks made on Facebook about News Letter reporter Sam McBride. The source of Mr Paisley’s resentment appears to have been the implication that the DUP were indirectly culpable for the forthcoming sweeping liberalisation of abortion law in Northern Ireland by blocking a deal to restore the assembly which requires the introduction of an Irish Language Act. An objective …

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DUP threaten to break the Confidence and Supply Agreement

On Friday, on Twitter, DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson referred to a News Letter article concerning the ongoing state of brexit negotiations and said the following : If [Theresa May] is rolling back on her pledge that there will be no barriers between NI and GB, then the Prime Minister should be under no illusions; we will vote against her deal and it will go nowhere. This prompted me to check the Confidence and Supply Agreement, the text of …

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Ireland at the Bar

During the latest of my recent (abortive) attempts to try to get involved with the works of James Joyce, I made the timely discovery of an interesting essay I’d never heard of before, “Ireland at the Bar”, written while the author was in Italy in 1907. I say “timely” because we’re in an interesting political epoch within these islands. Many of us are carefully re-evaluating our political perspective in light of recent developments, struggling to find ways to get our …

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The role of the block grant in the constitutional debate

Writing in the News Letter yesterday, Owen Polley makes the case for winning over the centre ground to the Union in an article which is surely a classic of the genre. Airily dismissing his own contribution to the debate as a commentator, he spends most of his article heaping scorn upon NI’s centre ground for openly considering the idea of constitutional change, and then goes onto scold Unionist politicians for their failure to win support for the status quo. Once …

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The bizarre story of banknotes in the United Kingdom

Over the past while we’ve been debating a number of things around “special status” for Northern Ireland. Coincident with this debate was the announcement from Ulster Bank of a plan to issue new, verticially-oriented banknotes. I found myself in rare agreement with North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, who suggested on twitter that we could look at a move to Bank of England notes. I noted again this morning that the topic on discussion on the Nolan Show, where the proprietor …

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