DUP’s advantage through Boundary Commision is largely restorative…

Interesting response from Sinn Fein over the latest boundary changes. Francie Molloy in the Independent writes… Sinn Féin warned at the time that the DUP would attempt to insert this issue into their negotiations with the Tories so it came as little surprise to us that the new proposals were virtually indistinguishable from the DUP’s. The Boundary Commission deny there has been a deliberate gerrymander at the behest of the DUP and stress their independence from political interference. Nevertheless, they … Read more

SF is “going through a process where we are figuring out” a new position on abortion

It seems Sinn Fein is going to hedge its bets on the Referendum on the Eighth. Despite the fact that it is planning to back the removal, it has thrown considerable doubt over what kind of amendments it will back in the Dail. Fiach Kelly in the Irish Times today… Holding an ard fheis to update Sinn Féin’s policy on abortion before the referendum to repeal Eighth Amendment to the Constitution could be logistically difficult, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has … Read more

Fewer east-west economic restrictions is more far important than an open border.

Ah, Brexit. My own thoughts have been from the start is that it represents a real and material threat to the economy of the Republic far more than any threat it poses to peace in Northern Ireland. Guardian picture editors may love the agitprop of 1960s style Irish customs, but a good deal on trade and one that offers the UK access to the single market (albeit at a price) would send such lurid scenarios back where they belong: the … Read more

“Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald have been making eyes at each other, using Brexit as chaperone…”

Interesting observation from Eoghan Harris… Leo Varadkar is playing full-on footsie with Sinn Fein – although he must know that Sinn Fein is using Brexit, like it uses the Irish language, as a baton to beat up on Northern Prods. Behind their cosmetic digs at each other, Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald have been making eyes at each other, using Brexit as chaperone. Last Tuesday, at a meeting of Sinn Fein in Newry, Mary Lou McDonald patronisingly praised Fine … Read more

EU document is the equivalent of a government white paper, so the telling detail is yet to come…

With the tensions getting high over the EU’s release of a well leaked draft of the EU’s terms for the UK’s exit, the speculation around its intentions as much implications could prove to be as damaging as any actual outcome. The UUP’s response this afternoon quotes a piece of text in Article 4, regarding the free movement of goods: “…the territory of Northern Ireland, excluding the territorial waters of the United Kingdom (the “territory of Northern Ireland”), shall be considered … Read more

“where reconciliation is a selective process, healing a pernicious and destabilising past remains as a challenge to us all.”

It’s had a muted response, both here on Slugger and in the wider media but this intervention from a group of Civic Unionists and unaligned others makes some senior points about the way NI politics is conducted as though they did not exist. I hope we’ll have a direct contribution from the group here on Slugger, but for now here’s the text… “We the undersigned desire a transparent and inclusive debate concerning rights, truth, equality and civil liberties and in … Read more

“And as the tired old joke says, you wouldn’t start from here; cue deep breaths all round.”

Very nice (and honest) summation from Fionnuala O’Connor, in which she lauds the fine work of Barney Rowan and Eamonn Mallie, who have… …performed a real service to politics, history and the people they live among, by producing documentation that filters fact from fake fact. It’s a DUP characteristic to rubbish journalists. Sinn Féin are good at it too. But Rowan’s cool reporting and the Mallie website have been impossible to dismiss. If the DUP had signed off on the … Read more

“The Irish language is just the latest in a list of tribal provocations by the Pied Piper of Sinn Fein”

You have to hand it to Sinn Fein, they do seem to understand narrative better than most of their rivals. They managed to dump democratic powersharing (and the Stormont institutions to boot) with one that too many nationalists cannot resist. That is that whatever goes wrong, it’s always “the fault of the Unionists.” It’s genius is that its still plays very well in the most un-Provisional parts of Irish society, north and south. It even features in that 1994 memo … Read more

Time for Sinn Fein to stand up for the Irish National Interest over Brexit at Westminster?

No doubt the Sindo isn’t making this suggestion for the sake of Sinn Fein’s good health, but it actually does make sense that an Irish party – wishing to represent the nation’s interest at home and abroad – should make its seven seats in Westminster available alongside Tory rebels in a crucial vote over the UK’s customs arrangements post Brexit… Members of the Conservative Party who wisely support the UK remaining in the customs union intend to vote against Mrs … Read more

RHI: “the energy team did not include that crucial detail in the submission to her.“

And, what’s happening in the public inquiry into the RHI scheme? It seems like Northern Ireland lost its representative democracy for a departmental cock up not by Arlene Foster, but by an official(s): The cost of the ongoing subsidy scheme – which became the RHI scheme – was estimated to cost over £100m more than it had done in the report the previous month, meaning it cost significantly more than the other option. Mrs Foster decided to go for the … Read more

“secrecy produced agreement but stopped DUP from walking its supporters through each compromise.”

For a substantially more sanguine view on where the talks breakdown leaves us than my own, here’s Newton Emerson in the Irish News… The meaning of ‘progress’ in this instance relates to DUP talks negotiator Simon Hamilton’s statement last July that Sinn Féin cannot “demand a ten-nil win.” From what is known of last week’s deal, it looks more like a one-all draw. Most items on the talks agenda have simply melted away. RHI and Arlene Foster’s return as first … Read more

Bring the electorate back into the deal and provide voters with both a carrot and a stick

If you missed it, and you want a reliable account of that ‘agreement that wasn’t an agreement’ let Brian Rowan take you through it in his usual careful and measured way… The only aspect of it that seems well worked is the language section (a milk and water version, according to Rick Wilford) and the breaking point there seems to be that the DUP won’t sign up to a stand-alone Irish Language Act. Nothing on the petition of concern, a … Read more

Whatever happened to the ‘designated parents’ role in the Belfast Agreement?

As ever, the breakdown of Stormont, and the inability of the two main parties to agree on anything substantive is being treated as a novelty. In fact, when you put two ideologically rigid parties in a rigid system breakdown is merely the status quo. As Siobhan Fenton recalled with admirable clarity on Monday, the Belfast Agreement was the product of a liberal rather than the fanatical mindset that presently dominates thinking in both the DUP and Sinn Fein: The Good … Read more

“We have a range of options available to improve our society, but we must control ourselves…”

Nice piece from Ed Brophy (from before Friday’s launch of Project 2040). He argues domestic choice still outweigh globalisation, and recovery arise from a positive focus on the future: Shortly after Peter Sutherland’s recent untimely death, Fintan O’Toole wrote an ill-judged piece about his legacy, where he laid the blame for the populist counter-revolution that gave us Brexit and Trump squarely at the feet of Sutherland as ‘father of globalisation’. In doing so, he missed the most salient point, which … Read more

“The relationship between the two governments hasn’t been everything it should have been…”

  Cue Arlene saying it is all over, “in our view, there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an executive being formed”. Her Majesty’s government, “to set a budget and start making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals and infrastructure”. As the UUP leader pointedly noted Tuesday, the no deal came after 402 days of deadlock. From what I can figure, the idea for three interlocking acts came from a senior civil servant, possibly the same one … Read more

“The balance underpinning this place is that Nationalism and Unionism must work together…”

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood on the breakdown of the talks… “For 13 months the public have been without a government, without any change and without any power. Despite interventions from the SDLP, the DUP and Sinn Féin have kept people here entirely in the dark. It appears this negotiation has now failed. There is only one way through which the public can judge this failure – the details of this deal must now be published. As the party most centrally … Read more

“I respect the Irish language and those who speak it but in a shared society this cannot be a one-way street”

So now we know. Sinn Fein’s refusal to countenance the three-Act solution means no deal is possible. No deal means Sinn Fein will continue their boycott of Stormont. Here’s the DUP Leader’s statment from this afternoon… For almost four weeks, we have been engaged in intensive negotiations with Sinn Fein. We have attempted to find a stable and sustainable basis for restoring devolution. Those discussions have been unsuccessful. Despite our best efforts, serious and significant gaps remain between ourselves and … Read more

Much poison to drain from what should have been a very simple piece of business…

So does anyone know what’s in this putative Acht na Gaeilge? Not yet, but if we look for precedents in Wales and Scotland, they have Acts which radically diverge because they reflect needs in each place. In Wales, the language remains central to community life in vast swathes of the country. Its religious Baptist tradition put Welsh at the heart of a language-driven form of worship. This is the only place where the Act confers justiciable rights. In Scotland which … Read more

Adams appeal against Long Kesh escape convictions fails…

Odd wee story this one. Former President of Sinn Fein has failed to overturn two former convictions for escape from internment on a technicality. [A lot of trouble just to avoid US Homeland security control checks on one time felons – Ed] As for the stories behind the convictions, pure boy’s own stuff, with a comic twist.. [Adams] was among hundreds of people held without trial during the early years of Northern Ireland’s Troubles. On Christmas Eve 1973, he was … Read more

Most significant development of the week has been SF’s signal that they will return to Stormont..

Asked on Monday by a Scottish journalist what the British PM and the Irish Taoiseach coming to Stormont meant, I said it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve come over and nothing happened. The NIO has used such events in the past to try to trigger a deal. Last time was over the Welfare standoff when it failed to achieve the desired effect. The toxification of the Irish language means probably too early to tell when we’ll get an actual … Read more