Remembering Dr. Éamon Phoenix at St Malachy’s

This week saw the untimely and tragic passing of Doctor Éamon Phoenix, the noted historian, academic and consultant. Memories are strange. Most of the time we remember the past in terms of broad strokes. But occasionally, our minds feel it appropriate to more permanently record selected events; snapshots which we are able to recall with distinct clarity, as if our subconsciousness instinctively knows of moments which need to be preserved for posterity. Of course, we are not computers, and time …

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Pro-Unity rallies : why Alliance are right not to attend

Today, there’s a major gathering at the 3Arena in Dublin organised by a company called Ireland’s Future (CRO reg 666463), which campaigns for Irish reunification. A few days ago, the Irish News’ John Manley carried the story that Alliance had turned down an invitation to this event, on the basis that it is a rally for a united Ireland. I think Alliance made the right decision not to attend and I fully support it. I should note at the outset …

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Are border poll criteria an excuse for procrastination ?

Peter Kyle, shadow Secretary of State

This morning, on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, Shadow Secretary of State Peter Kyle made some comments during a brief interview with the BBC’s Darran Marshall on the question of the criteria to call a border poll (iplayer : interview begins at approx 18:45) which seems to have generated a frisson of excitement. The salient part of the interview is reproduced below, with my emphasis. DM : I want to talk to you about the constitutional position now. Do you think …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 3 : Can it be weaponised ?

Nuclear explosion mushroom cloud

Following on from my previous articles on how nuclear power works, and why we need to rethink the dangers posed by it, it’s time to talk about the other safety-related concerns that are often raised in the debate about the viability of nuclear power. Can a nuclear power station explode like a nuclear bomb ? What happens if a nuclear power station finds itself in the theatre of military conflict, as is currently happening in Ukraine ? To deal with …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 2 : The Danger

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a little about how governments are reconsidering their attitude to nuclear power, and talked about the mechanics of how a reactor works and how it can solve the problems of getting us to net zero carbon emissions and securing energy supply in the long term.  But we can’t gloss over the bad reputation that nuclear power has. Can’t it blow up, like a nuclear bomb ? And haven’t there been a number of …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 1 : how it works

It can have escaped few of us that the effects of the war in Ukraine and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside the ongoing issue of climate change, have led to renewed interest in the possibilities offered by nuclear power and how it can help to solve the problems governments around the world are facing. This is leading to a re-evaluation of the case for nuclear, and, hopefully, objective consideration of its strengths and weaknesses. I believe that it …

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Pension provision in a united Ireland : redux

source : getty images

Last week I wrote an article suggesting that in the event of a united Ireland, the British government would propose that the future Irish government assume responsibility for paying the former Northern Ireland state pensions, on the basis that it would already be receiving the benefit of historic pension contributions that were invested in the form of public spending there. The article noted that this was the proposed arrangement in the event of Scottish independence (see page 139). This drew …

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Home truths : pension provision in a United Ireland

source : getty images

A topic I see coming up quite often relates to the question of pension provision in a united Ireland. For such an important topic, there seems to be a great deal of misinformation. The ongoing “civic conversation” has not really addressed it properly and, unfortunately, there have even been academic papers that have sought to wave the problem away.  Most people assume that since they’ve been paying national insurance contributions to the UK throughout their life, the UK government would …

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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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