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 …

Read more…Assorted thoughts on the realities of border polling and reunification

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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Boris Johnson and the “pure millennium bug stuff”

I’m really glad Boris Johnson, in private remarks, chose to draw a comparison between the Brexit process and the Millennium Bug. I’ve often thought this comparison was apt and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs’ comments have given me a great excuse to write about my own short experiences dealing with the bug. I was working at the HQ of a large Irish financial institution between the summers of 1999 and 2000 as part of my placement …

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Reflections on the Good Friday Agreement

I thought I’d record some personal opinions on the passing of the 20th anniversary (more or less) of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. I felt compelled to do this after reading a few exchanges on social media, one in particular declaring that Unionism had, in a manner of speaking, had its eye wiped. This is a popular, but demonstrably false, perspective that had its origins in the debate at that time, and perhaps has deeper origins …

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Another angle on Sinn Féin’s Westminster abstention

Any debate about Sinn Féin’s Westminster abstention policy tends to cover no new ground. It always starts with someone – most recently Polly Toynbee – suggesting that SF should take their seats to pursue some common, worthwhile objective, in this case, that of blunting the sharp edges of brexit. It ends with SF supporters asserting that (a) it is a key republican principle that can’t be easily argued away; (b) that the party has a clear mandate to abstain from Westminster; …

Read more…Another angle on Sinn Féin’s Westminster abstention

Belfast Central Station to be renamed “Lanyon Place”

(picture courtesy “Lambert” on geograph.org.uk) An interesting tidbit in the news today with Translink announcing that Belfast Central Station is to be renamed “Lanyon Place” following a programme of refurbishment due to be completed in September. From the press release : The Lanyon Place area has become a major hub of activity, with the ‘Lanyon’ name being adopted by a range of neighbouring businesses, alongside Belfast City Council’s exciting plans for the Lanyon Tunnels. ‘We consulted with a range of …

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How brexit is destroying NI’s centre ground – and could take the Union with it

The brexit negotations are not going well. During the course of the past few weeks, we’ve seen a sharp deterioration of Anglo-Irish relations as the Irish government found themselves with no choice other than to call out the UK government’s lack of preparation or proposals on how it would approach the sensitive matter of the Irish border in the context of the UK’s departure from the EU. Today, we’ve seen the DUP intervene to scupper an agreement that had been …

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The postwar ID requirement between Northern Ireland and Great Britain

Reading through some old Wikipedia articles pointed me to an interesting exchange in the House of Commons, back in 1948. Ulster Unionist MPs Conolly Gage and Major Samuel Gillmor Haughton rose during an adjournment debate to complain about the requirement for a permit or passport to be presented for travel between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Mr Gage opens by highlighting the inconvenience of this arrangement : As everyone knows, Ulster is as much a part of …

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On Voluntary Coalition

I note, during coverage of today’s UUP conference, that once again that Robin Swann is advocating voluntary coalition. He’s not the only advocate of voluntary coalition, and he’s certainly not the first. In fact it has been an ideal for both the  UUP and DUP, since the old Stormont parliament was prorogued in 1972, to return to the approach of government by a simple majority. Jim Allister is also well known for supporting this view. I’ve heard other Unionist spokespersons …

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