Could Blair’s analysis of Brexit offer a realistic way through the mess?

I’ve never been a Blair fan boy nor one of his haters. He left enough mess behind in NI to know not everything he’s done was perfect, but I do think it’s worth listening to his interview on the Today programme yesterday. In it he outlines a course of action that may not have seemed practical a few days ago (although it’s not a million miles from my own suggestion on Nolan earlier in the week). My scenario was predicated … Read more

Varadkar appeals to the Commons on Article 50…

Hmmm… A sudden change of tack from Dublin? *** NEW: Taoiseach appeals over head of Government directly to UK Parliament telling me on @skynews “it is within gift of Govt and UK Parliament to take the threat of No Deal off the table… by revoking Article 50 or seeking an extension of A50”. pic.twitter.com/Y1aTmDHKzt — Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) December 13, 2018 Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics … Read more

UPDATED: May survives Tory leadership vote by 200 to 117…

She may be safe tonight but the Brexit compromise is still to be resolved in parliament… – Laura Kuenssberg On Nolan this morning I pointed out that if there’s no majority for Mrs May’s agreement with the EU, it’s a dead letter. This is the end of the internal revolution, but unless she can get Labour MPs to put their hands up in large numbers, it’s hard to see it how it progresses with 117 Tories signalling they just don’t want it. … Read more

Micheál Martin: “The contagion of political chaos will not spread here from London…”

So far from the feverish speculation in Westminster today, there was a more minor key play taking place in Leinster House this afternoon in a session called “Dáil Statements on European Council”. Micheal Martin kicked off with a sobering assessment of the implications of the chaos in London, pointing out that “however good the deal is, a deal which will not or cannot be ratified ultimately becomes inoperable and worthless”. Whether or not the deal is ratified, and there is still … Read more

The British are by no means the only ones who failed to articulate what they wanted from Brexit.

I concur with Naomi. Two and a half years after a referendum in which Brexit was projected as ‘all kinds of everything”. It is bizarre that we still don’t know what it will look like when it comes out of the Westminster sausage machine. If UK Labour’s campaign was poor/nonexistent, it was the BBC’s decision to treat it as a hot piece of blue on blue action, not a decision on the UK’s constitutional future contributed to that deep sense … Read more

If demographics is destiny, it’s up to us to decide the sort of destiny we want

I was intrigued by my friend David McWilliams’ warm and typically human account of Northern Ireland’s constitutional prospects in the FT. David has always had an abiding commitment to exploring the possibilities and the advantages of a single polity living on our island. In the naughties, he invited me to speak on a panel on his RTE show, which looked at the prospects of a united Ireland. On the bus down I rang one of my oldest small ‘u’ unionist mates … Read more

What’s the antedote to “know nothing” populism’s rejection of complexity?

Although it makes me a little nervous when people draw from Yeats’ Second Coming this is an interesting take from Bobby McDonagh, who was Irish Ambassador in London during the referendum that ended up in a narrow but telling victory for exiting the EU… Complexity has been crucial in building the structures which enable peaceful co-operation between nations, including in Europe. The more simple ways of European history involved legionaries and siege engines, tanks and bombs. The complexity of today’s … Read more

If Mrs May doesn’t have the numbers, what then?

There are two perspectives growing around the Brexit deal. One in Ireland (where it is generally welcomed by majorities north and south), and the other in Britain, where the bulk of Parliament does not want to touch it. Only one of these matters. The Guardian has put together a guide to sentiment within the House of Commons… That the DUP has signalled their opposition, does not necessarily mean they will vote against it. Nor, when it comes to the threat of a … Read more

An odd turn of affairs for Mary Lou on what should have been a celebratory day for women in the Oireachtas…

Yesterday Mary Lou finally met with Máiría Cahill. But first, both women were included in a group photograph taken in the Dail chamber of current and former Oireachtas members for the centenary of women being able to vote and stand for election. What then passed was bizarre. Miriam Lord, colour and sketch writer for the Irish Times captured the brittle strangeness of the proceedings: It was a happy occasion, with many blasts from the political past lining out for this special … Read more

What sort of game are the DUP playing in Westminster over Brexit…

Above is a highlighted version of a conversation with Allison Morris and Malachi O’Doherty on Stephen Nolan’s ‘biggest show in the country’ this morning on the DUP’s dissension from Theresa May’s deal towards a deal. Draw your own conclusions, but I have made three basic assumptions : Politics in Northern Ireland conditions people into believing every big issue ends in a clear winner and a clear loser, and that at some point we will hit a final result. For the most part, democratic … Read more

Mrs May drives on with her deal of “impossible things”…

It’s been a funny week. [Yeah, another one. We know. – Ed.] On Sunday, Fianna Fail’s Lisa Chambers noted the strangeness in a commemoration in Cork of the old IRA commander and government minister Seán Moylan, like this: It seems strange to stand here beside a patriot who fought British tyranny and say “Brits In”. But these are strange times. The British decision to leave the most successful transnational organisation in history is an unprecedented act of national self-sabotage. Our … Read more

“We will get through #Brexit, but will still have to address the erosion of North/South relations…”

There’s an air of unreality about politics in Northern Ireland these days, and it is not clear when or even if it is likely to return anytime soon. Everyone seems to be waiting for Brexit to happen, but Brexit is a process that appears to be becoming more uncertain with every twist. It may be that no one is clamering for Northern Irish democracy to return, but the democratic has been weakened by the displacement of serious journalism for sensationalist coverage … Read more

Over three days, sport will show that Ireland can divide or unite to the mutual benefit of all…

In a short three day period in sport, we’ll see how two conflicting (paradoxical) dynamics can work well on the island of Ireland. By all accounts, the atmosphere in the ground was warm in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin between the Republic and Northern Ireland last night. Neither team has been showing great form against other teams, so both are adrift of their ambitions. The internationalisation of the EPL means they’re not picking from the top. But it was a lively game … Read more

RHI and price to be paid for our inability to punish poor policy, poor government and poor politicians…

Three points I would make… The major issue most clearly identified is the lack of accountability within the post-St Andrews Agreement system. The fact Mrs Foster didn’t read legislation is embarrassing (as a solicitor), but how did the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 make it into law without any of these flaws being spotted in the first place? Ironically it was Timothy Johnson who said that they as Spads had got far too comfortable in their own … Read more

May’s “stable as it can be” text could just be “the end of the beginning…”

Well, as the former DUP SpAd Richard Bullick noted last night, whilst we have an agreed text (“as stable as it can be”), this is likely only to be round one of getting anything through parliament at Westminster. We may now have reached the ‘hunger games’ phase of this process … — Richard Bullick (@RichardBullick1) November 13, 2018 The DUP has signalled clearly that since its ‘blood red lines’ have been breached, it’s not biting. So there goes the government’s … Read more

#Remembrance in Ireland: we don’t need meaningless gestures from the restlessly unwilling…

Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t detect as much of a poppy controversy as in previous years. That may be that because being the 100th anniversary, a significant emphasis this year has been where perhaps it always should have, ie the war’s end. Widen the lens and you’ll see that the poppy was the invention of an American woman inspired by a Canadian soldier’s poem. “Her idea was for the artificial poppies to be manufactured in France “by women, … Read more

Most Northern Irish parties need Stormont more than it needs them…

Where are we after the presidential elections and Brexit? And when can we expect a return to actual politics in Northern Ireland? It’s difficult, not least because no one yet has an adequate response to question of why it collapsed in the first place (seriously, we don’t). Karen Bradley’s briefing to the parties on Thursday suggests it won’t be before new year (when we should know what Brexit looks like). As Jon Tonge noted on the Nolan Show on Thursday, … Read more

“When the army arrived in Northern Ireland, why was peace and stability not restored?”

Interesting letter in the Irish News from my old friend Trevor Ringland, reproduced here without further comment: The deaths of 11 people In Ballymurphy during August 1971 were a tragic consequence of the events that led to the army being deployed on our streets. I sincerely hope the families are successful in their quest to establish the truth about what happened. In the mid-70s my father, who was a policeman, wrote a paper titled, ‘The use of the army in … Read more

“Truth is we are enlarged by our differences, we need to become a bigger us…”

It’s been a powerful week in Northern Ireland. Nothing, I hasten to add, much to do with politicians. Two incidents that bookended a terrible week just before the close of what we now euphemistically call the Troubles were remembered with candour and open but controlled emotion. The West Kirk in the Shankill assumed a centrality as the Shankill Road came to a standstill during a service to mark the 25th anniversary. People, including the former SDLP MP for West Belfast … Read more

#Aras2018: Ask the electorate a stupid question and you might be disappointed in the answer…

NUpdate: Final result… Two polls last night make today’s count for the Irish Presidency a foregone conclusion. The Irish Times has the larger sample… But RTE’s is not that dissimilar… The incumbent is so far ahead there should not even be a second count. If that’s the case, all but Casey and the President himself will lose whatever cash they spent on the election. The most obvious reason is that voters were given no motive to ditch the incumbent from … Read more