President Higgins’ rivals for the Aras will have to outline their ability to do a better job…

I’ve never understood why Irish presidential elections are not fixed events. Elections due every seven years are suspended if the incumbent wants to make it 14. The current President promised he’d trigger one by leaving after one term. But Ireland’s worst kept secret is now out there. Michael D Higgins is going to run again. Sinn Fein’s confirmation that it will field a candidate means a game is certainly on, and there is likely to be at least one independent … Read more

“Mr Paisley was conscious of the potential embarrassment that would be caused to him…”

So Ian Paisley is suspended for thirty sitting days in Westminster for failing to declare hospitality from the Sri Lankan government. Estimates of the value of two undeclared holidays vary from £50,000 (his own) to £100,000 in 2013. The suspension means that the government is one vote down until November. The report from the House of Commons Committee on Standards noted: In view of the seriousness of this matter, we recommend that Mr Paisley be suspended from the service of the House … Read more

“Another torrid day (in Westminster) for Theresa May…”

I do wonder from some of our conversations just how detached Northern Ireland is becoming from the reality of Brexit politics. Here’s a useful update on that tight parliamentary arithmetic in the House of Commons from Gary Gibbons… Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

Abstentionism may have a place, but hedging on Northern Ireland’s anti Brexit interest is another matter

As Andrew Rawnsley recalled at the weekend, it was Lyndon B Johnson who declared that the most important talent in politics is “the ability to count”. He said that in the context of Theresa May’s tricky arithmetic at Westminster… There aren’t enough people who can count around Mrs May. The fatal flaw in her plan is that there is no majority for it in the House of Commons. Or rather, just the thinnest majorities for some of it in the … Read more

Getting beyond old murals of “resistance” and recovering our lost “ceremonies of innocence”

Here’s a (very) rough cut of a conversation I had on Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster with Independent councillor on the Derry And Strabane Council, Paul Gallagher about the replication of violence depicted on the famous Petrol Bomber mural. In fact, Paul makes points I agree with. He references the role of poverty, lack of opportunity and eager willingness of young people to leave the city. It’s a situation that’s not that much different from the late 70s and early … Read more

“549 days since the agreed institutions for governing Northern Ireland were collapsed…”

Another interesting speech from Micheál Martin in one of the Dail’s periodic Statements on Northern Ireland debates… No one can doubt the immense progress which has been in Northern Ireland because of the victory of democratic politics and the new beginning offered by the inclusive and brave agreement reached twenty years ago. The problems which confront Northern Ireland and this island as a whole today are nowhere near those experienced at the height of the violence and sectarianism of the previous … Read more

Aside from heat and frustration, the inspiration for Derry’s young rioters is no secret…

Interesting take on the spate of rioting in Derry that’s been going on for three days now on Morning Ireland. A local journalist tells RTE that no one local knows what it’s all been about or what sparked it. The preliminary target appears to have been the tiny Protestant enclave on the city side of the River Foyle, and according to the BBC, Sinn Fein MLA Karen Mullan said she believes dissident republicans have been orchestrating recent attacks: “Our youth workers … Read more

Is the DUP nudging Brexit into compliance with the Foster McGuinness letter of 2016?

Time will tell whether the PM’s greater-than-usual lucidity at the dispatch box yesterday was pure euphoria after getting a couple of troublesome monkeys from her back or a genuine bend in her own political road. Certainly, one key problem facing Brexiteers (who, lest we forget, actually won the Referendum) is that in order to win they had to build a broad ecclesia that encompassed opposing factions which could never agree on a common agenda. This was the job given to David … Read more

Talking reconciliation with SF over health reforms, but can the DUP walk the walk?

Some positive talk here from the DUP Leader Arlene Foster on the eve of the 70th birthday of the NHS… The NHS cannot afford to stand still, and here in Northern Ireland we have our own specific challenges. Though, we are fortunate in the Bengoa Report to have a roadmap that other jurisdictions don’t as yet, to an improved and sustainable service. Former DUP Health Ministers Edwin Poots and Simon Hamilton saw the need for transformation, established strong relationships with … Read more

“almost in the space of trying to undermine confidence in the new Garda Commissioner…”

To Brian’s pointed question about Leo, Mary Lou and Drew, I’d add another. What does Mary Lou’s Dail offensive tell us about SF’s attitude to the new and fairly (as far as we can tell) appointed Garda Commissioner and the mechanism of the southern state? Like their attack on the Special Criminal in the week the Hutch-Kinihan feud began (ie, in the first week of the last southern General Election) it perhaps suggests the SF leader is bound to an … Read more

Should we recognise hypocrisy and humbug as a feature rather than a bug of democracy?

It’s easy to overegg Arlene Foster’s visit to St Tiernach’s Park in Clones last Sunday. But as last night’s Slugger panellist Alex Kane notes in the Irish Times today, that’s what’s already happening… The problem with gesture politics in Northern Ireland is that most people assume that it’s about getting the choreography right for a new talks process. Within hours of Foster leaving the match, both Mary Lou McDonald and Karen Bradley – NI’s secretary of state – were hinting her … Read more

Drew Harris is the next Chief Commissioner of An Garda Siochana…

The Bel Tel reports… PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris has been appointed the new Garda Commissioner. The vacancy was created last September following the resignation of Noirin O’Sullivan. More details to follow… Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

Uniting Ireland means tackling the huge social debt generated by the Troubles before not after…

IThe uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process is driving what often comes across as feverish talk of a United Ireland. Make no mistake, Brexit (even a soft one) will change relations on and between these islands for good. But island unity is no foregone conclusion. In his column for the Irish Times week before last, Noel Whelan picked up the same United Ireland issue our Slugger panel will be discussing this Tuesday evening (still a few tickets left). He usefully puts his finger … Read more

It would be a tragic mistake to miss out (again) on any future expansion of health budgets

It’s best to treat Theresa May’s NHS/Brexit announcement with some scepticism, but perhaps not too much. It may well be what Robert Shrimsley calls “snake oil sloganising”, but an important political concession has been made. The NHS is running almost on empty, and needs a rebasing injection of funds. But it will also needs accompanying reforms. Not least in Northern Ireland, where we missed out on the Chancellor Brown years when funding ran relatively freely. Whether May ever delivers that … Read more

A warning to Leo from his base on his drift towards Mary Lou and Sinn Fein…

I didn’t get to share this piece from Sarah Carey in The Times, Ireland edition yesterday. It’s a stern warning to Leo Varadkar over his political flirtation with Mary Lou McDonald from a columnist from a committed FG family… The omens indicated something so preposterous and outlandish that I ignored them for too long, but no longer. Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Féin leader, says that she wants to form a coalition government with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Not on … Read more

Happy Birthday NHS: What changes are necessary, and how might we make them?

Tonight’s Slugger event is highly focused on health policy, for which we make no apologies. One poor feature of devolution in Northern Ireland is its retreat from policy in favour of populism. However, this is also a wider feature of western democracy. About a year before the last but one UK general election, this animated conversation between Professor John Kay and Steve Richards illustrates the exact same casual (ie, uncosted) retreat taking place elsewhere: In Northern Ireland (as elsewhere), there … Read more

Well Taoiseach, Féile an Phobail is not “simply a community event”…

Little did I think on Tuesday when I wrote that precedent in politics is no guide to the future that it would take less than 24 hours for some modest proof to emerge. So the Taoiseach is coming to meet the Orange Order, but the real political interest lies in the fact that he is launching the Feile an Phobail or West Belfast Festival: one of the most richly funded community festivals in these islands. As Chris pointed out on Twitter, two … Read more

Why political precedent is no guide to the shape of Ireland’s political future…

One thing I will say for Sinn Fein is that they do sometimes learn from their mistakes. Last time round, they stayed out of the horsetrading for coalition on the rather implausible grounds that they would only negotiate from a position of strength. Now, they know very well that the political media obsesses about such things far in advance of the following election, but the message going out from Mary Lou is unambiguous this time about wanting to get into government. … Read more

Shouldn’t our journalists spend *some* time considering the likely outcomes of stories?

Talking to a friend in southern politics yesterday, he slipped a startling psychological term into the conversation to describe the current state of Northern Irish politics. He suggested we were in a fugue state, something which Wikipedia describes as: …a dissociative disorder[1] and a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality. His trigger was hearing a strident northern politician – habitue of Radio Ulster – inveighing crudely against abortion on a flagship current affairs programme on RTE … Read more

Did you know that abortion is perfectly legal in Northern Ireland?

HNIW134 from The Detail on Vimeo. Great briefing on Northern Ireland’s abortion laws as they currently apply. Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty