All eyes on Omagh as McElduff returns to frontline politics

On Thursday night former MP for West Tyrone Barry McElduff re-entered the political arena after he was selected by party members in County Tyrone to run for Sinn Féin in next year’s local government elections. What is notable about his selection to stand in Omagh Town is that this is also the intended launchpad of Fianna Fáil in the north (well certainly for a section of the party) as talks with the SDLP continue. At the last council election in … Read more

The New Hong Kong

It’s just under 19 weeks until Brexit Day and the potential introduction of a hard border in Ireland. It remains a very frightening prospect indeed. Theresa May’s proposed deal with the EU has been greeted with fury by DUP MPs & hardline Brexiteers alike as a ‘threat to the union’. Of course the May deal that is being presented as a threat to the union can be flipped on its head. There is also the possibility that the north could … Read more

Abortion & Equal marriage clauses could form part of Bradley’s Bill

Diana Johnson’s bill to decriminalise abortion in England, Wales and the north passed its first reading in Westminster today by 208 votes to 123. Supporters of the Ten Minute Rule Bill included 5 Government Ministers among them Penny Mordaunt Minister of Women and Equalities. It now moves to the next stage in November. Perhaps more crucially however it comes ahead of the second reading of Karen Bradley’s Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions Bill on Wednesday. An amendment is being … Read more

#BillyCaldwell ‘s health deteriorates after Home Office medication seizure

Billy Caldwell, a 12 year old boy from Castlederg suffering from severe epilepsy, was admitted to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital via ambulance this afternoon after suffering a number of seizures. “Billy has had back-to-back seizures today,” Charlotte Caldwell, his mother said. “On his medication, which included the vital but banned THC component, he was seizure-free for more than 300 days.” Charlotte who has fought tirelessly to secure medication for Billy for a number of years has said that doctors back … Read more

“The tribunal concludes that it could reasonably infer unlawful political discrimination”

The Irish News reports  that former Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has won a fair employment case against Citizens Advice Armagh and has been awarded £5,500. It arose in relation to an application Mr Flanagan made for the role of manager at the Citizens Advice Armagh. The Irish News states that : “A female candidate was appointed to the role, even though she had failed to meet the initial shortlisting criteria. “Mr Flanagan launched a case against the charity, claiming … Read more

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

Arlene’s Valentines Day Massacre

Today could not have turned out any bigger a mess for the incumbent DUP Leader and would-be First Minister. If sources are to be believed the Fermanagh MLA was ready to sign off on a deal which would have seen 3 Bills introduced : An Irish Language Bill An Ulster Scots Bill A Joint Respect Bill What has happened since the weekend to put the Stormont train off the rails? A DUP Group meeting on Monday morning, 3 days of … Read more

A new dawn for Sinn Féin?

The appointment of Mary Lou McDonald marks a new dawn for Sinn Féin. The baton passed on to a new generation. She received as smooth a transition as one can get in politics from her predecessor Gerry Adams. However there were never really any clear competitors to Sinn Féin’s strongest performer in the Dáil who also has a common touch that is a necessary requisite of any highly successful politician. McDonald topped the poll in the Dublin Central constituency in the … Read more

Spain prevents Catalan independence leaders from taking office

The elections to the Catalan Parliament were just over 3 weeks ago but rather than lead to any settled political outcome in Barcelona problems look set to continue. Pro-independence parties again won an overall majority of seats but will the Spanish establishment permit all of those deputies to take up their seats and fulfil their mandate? Not likely. The Spanish Supreme Court has ruled that the former Deputy First Minister Oriol Junqueras must remain physically in prison on remand and may not … Read more

Where do we put Ulster’s Irish passport office?

Holding an Irish passport has become quite the statement. Since the Brexit vote applications have surged for a number of reasons including re-asserting an Irish identity in Britain and the north respectively. Also by Britons that want to hold on to their European Union citizenship. Dagmar Schiek, Professor of Law at Queen’s University Belfast said that “The British in Northern Ireland who do not also opt for Irish citizenship would be worse off after Brexit,”  Bearers of these little red books … Read more

Some Predictions for 2018

Presidential Elections There will be more than one hat thrown in the ring along with that of Michael D. One party will break rank and expect the others to follow. Already conversations are taking place within Fianna Fáil about possible candidates. Expect the niceties of ‘we all think Michael D is doing a great job’ to die down and be replaced with a full field of candidates. Towards the end of the year expect further details about the Presidential rights … Read more

Time for Fianna Fáil to end its northern election taboo?

The Sunday Business Post reported yesterday that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is “delaying his decision on whether to run candidates in the North” amid concerns in the party about the impact of Brexit. It’s nearly four years since the party called for active and serious participating and engagement in the political process in the North and decided that “…the party should begin fielding candidates for election there for 2019“. To make any meaningful impact on the elections to the 11 … Read more

Decision time for Dáil Committee on abortion reform

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment is set to recommend a straight repeal  of Article 40.3.3 when it considers its final report on Wednesday. The Committee has 21 members and 12 are already on the record as saying that the removal of the clause should be recommended by the group. There might also be a majority in favour of recommending that abortion be freely available and without restriction for up to 12 weeks gestation. According to the Sunday TImes … Read more

Staring the economic gift-horse in the mouth

As Theresa May placed the British negotiating team into reverse yesterday afternoon many in the business community here in the north realised that what they see as a best case scenario for Brexit is within their grasp. In today’s Belfast Telegraph Seamus Lehany of the Freight Transport Association said that the proposals could “help attract inward investment and make the north “a bridge between the UK and EU”. He called the potential deal “a good thing from the movement of … Read more

Sinn Féin policy decision has implications for abortion referendum process

Gerry Adams takes to the stage at the close of Sinn Fein's Ard Fheis in Belfast 2011

The Sinn Féin Clár for their 2017 Ard Fheis has been released with details of 171 motions for delegates to debate and vote on. Many of the motions will pass uncontested but how Motions 144 to 151 are voted on will decide how the party approaches what will be one of the main political issues for Ireland in 2018 – abortion. Two of the motions call for ‘Sinn Féin elected representatives’ and ‘Sinn Féin members’ respectively to be allowed to … Read more

Sinn Féin moves towards a change in abortion policy

Responding to questioning from journalist Amanda Ferguson yesterday Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has confirmed that he supports women’s right to choose. Sinn Féin’s Vice-President Mary-Lou McDonald has also made it clear that whilst she respects her party’s current policy (Repeal the Eighth Amendment & enact legislation on the grounds of rape, incest, and fatal foetal abnormality) her personal position is very clear : “My politics and my view is decidedly pro-choice” Their colleague in the Dáil Meath TD Peadar Toibin … Read more

How would TDs legislate for abortion in cases of rape?

The work of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment continues apace ahead of their December deadline to complete their work. It has already voted “not to retain the Eighth Amendment in full” but the final outcome from their work remains far from clear. Last week TDs heard from NUI Galway Law Lecturer Tom O’Malley who told them that it would be very difficult to legislate for terminations in cases of rape. He advised that such difficulties would be avoided … Read more

Sadly, we have political prisoners again

Catalans stand on their balconies late into the night banging metal pans with spatulas and wooden spoons snatched from their kitchen drawers. The collective rattle of utensils echoes throughout Barcelona.   Spain has imprisoned two leading Catalan Independence leaders in a move that only serves to deepen and harden the current divisions between Barcelona and Madrid.   Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart are being held without bail for arranging protests in front of local government buildings that Spanish police were … Read more

Petition of Concern status quo suits the DUP

Back in February – when we were in a different world politically – I looked at the possibility of reforming the petition of concern and whether retaining the mechanism was beneficial for nationalists. The unionist majority in the Assembly disappeared faster than many predicted. From 52% of the 108 outgoing MLAs to 44% of those elected in March. An 8% drop in less than a year and perhaps an indication that the electoral register is catching up with longer term demographic … Read more

Unionism isn’t ready for a deal anytime soon

Stormont is staring into the political abyss. It already was I hear you say, but over the past week the tone of compromise that gave a faint flicker of hope has all but disappeared. Unionism has marched right into a cul-de-sac nudged along by the current leader of the Orange Order who has about as much political wit as Jolene Bunting. Edward Stevenson said that “when language is used as a cultural weapon by political republicanism it clearly becomes a … Read more