Finding Solutions and Enacting Opportunities: The Protocol

align fingers, index fingers, hands

“Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.” – EM Foster Yesterday, I took the unusual decision (for me) to sign an open letter calling for some proportion and sense to prevail within the negotiations between the EU and UK over how the Northern Irish Protocol will work post grace period. It seems to me there’s been a failure of imagination around these issues, with Mr Johnson’s UK administration …

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PSNI report: Credible attempt to anchor the policing service within the life of a Republican community. 

An interesting responses to a new report out from the PSNI, which makes several recommendations for changing how it polices south Armagh. There’s a lot of material in there, including performance comparisons with Newtonhamilton. Such as… 1,606 stop and searches were carried out in D District between April 2019 and December 2019. Within this period Crossmaglen LPT used stop and search powers on 6 occasions and Newtownhamilton LPT on 166 occasions. There’s a fair amount of emphasis on how despite …

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Time to reflect, reframe and rethink parading legislation which only polices the law abiding?

the eleventh hour, time to rethink, catastrophe

So there’s been a few reports around the INLA funeral where guns were fired in Galliagh, right on the outskirts of Derry. Some alleging that the PSNI withdrew countered by a statement from the PSNI that they simply didn’t intervene. Such events do serious damage to the efforts currently going on within the city to make it fit for the extraordinarily large numbers of high achieving students that exit the city every year, many of them never to return. In …

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Unionism needs to create a new battleground for ideas that everyone can buy into…

clock, time management, time

Alex Kane has raised an interesting question which he believes is the key one facing unionism, which is how “to find [the] compromise required to best secure the union”. It’s unfashionable to argue that compromise is a good thing. That’s partly because for most of the last forty years (almost the entirety of my own voting life) conviction politicians have been the most desired thing (even when they’re obviously driving the whole gig into an economic brick wall). The question is …

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Could Switzerland’s bottom up democracy provide a model for a widely agreeable united Ireland?

swiss, banner, confederates

One thing I can say about my friend David McWilliams is he is creative when it comes to charting the future of Ireland. In his latest column he argues that the Swiss Confederation might be a way to think about a united Ireland. David used to work for the Swiss bank, UBS and so is clearly well informed about the principles on which Switzerland works… The balance of political power in Switzerland is divvied up between the three Cs – …

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US lessons from 20 years in Afghanistan (are there any relevant to NI’s situation)?

As we await the return of Northern Irish politics proper, here’s a snippet captured by the excellent John Naughton’s Memex 1.1 Substack blog (subscription, highly recommended) on US lessons from Afghanistan: Strategy: The U.S. government continuously struggled to develop and implement a coherent strategy for what it hoped to achieve. Timelines: The U.S. government consistently underestimated the amount of time required to rebuild Afghanistan, and created unrealistic timelines and expectations that prioritized spending quickly. These choices increased corruption and reduced …

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UK Universities being flooded by students whose families have never been to university before

books, shelves, door

Speaking as a parent of a young woman who has just returned exactly GCSE results she needed, I have to say I’m not as non plussed about the outstanding performances this year as others seem to be. Nor am I as worried as some. The assessments have been rigorous, ongoing and consistent for the last school year (as opposed to a final exams crammed into May and June). I’m pretty certain no teacher wants to send any student in over …

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“…this is not magic, and Trump has no mystical powers. It’s just democracy, coming apart at the seams”

sand dunes, desert, hills

Good piece in the London Review of Books (I have a gift subscription from an English friend) this week on Michael Wolff’s latest tome on the Trump phenomenon. It’s written by David Runciman, author of How Democracy Ends. The book is full of granular detail from the last hours of the Trump presidency dressed with considerable foreboding about the effect he continues to exert on the US Republican Party to get beyond what it hoped would be an aberration. Trump’s …

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As long as nationalist parties refuse to allow any compromises for a UI, unionists have little to worry about…

For all the intensity of the debate in some quarters, a united Ireland remains a concept with few ideas to drive it. The Taoiseach’s Shared Island project aims to bring north and south closer but without political preconditions. Some point to increased north south trade since the protocol, but without some amelioration of the restrictions on the east west trade it’s not clear whether the protocol itself is sustainable in the medium to long term. Besides, even if matters do settle …

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NI’s Zombie culture war summers are becoming detached from where its youth’s heads are…

zombie, horror, monster

“Regression is a form of retreat, going back to a time when the person felt safer and where the stresses in question were not known, or where an all-powerful parent would take them away.” -John Kellden Each year we are treated to a series of controversies over loyalist bonfires. Now to be fair they seem to be a falling number, but the three or four transgressive ones do get a fair amount of column inches. When it comes to the …

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“Fraying purpose is diminishing Fine Gael’s capacity… [to govern]”

Interesting analysis in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times yesterday from Gerard Howlin on the underlying politics that lead to a climbdown over the ill fated plan to appoint Katherine Zappone as a special envoy… The indiscipline in Fine Gael stems from a suspicion that not all principal figures remain committed to national politics. Entering government for a fourth successive term hasn’t been achieved since 1969. Whatever their private intentions, there is a question mark in colleagues’ minds about …

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As Katherine Zappone turns down special envoy offer questions arise over Tanaiste’s judgement

One of the most idiosyncratic stories to emerge from the coalition in Dublin has concluded with Katherine Zappone’s deciding not to take up the role of special envoy on freedom of expression. It’s subject of a leader in The Irish Times. They comment: Appointing a part-time special envoy at the United Nations ought to be a difficult thing to mess up. Yet through a sequence of basic political errors and a botched response when the controversy ignited, it quickly became clear …

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Integrated Education continuing growth suggests its working with the grain of demographic change…

wintertime, clock, time conversion

A piece in yesterday’s Irish News caught my eye, in the sense it claimed that there was now 71% support for Integrated Education (from LucidTalk’s online panel), the same proportion that voted in favour of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. Just 7/8% of NI schools are integrated, but that’s huge compared to the handful that followed Lagan College in the 1980s. It and its North Belfast analogue Hazelwood College fed an aspiration that’s only continued to grow since. There are …

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Promoting stability in Northern Ireland is a key national interest for the Republic…

Talking someone who is Catholic and actually cares about the Union (which doesn’t make him a unionist per se but someone of whom unionists should take note), he described Brexit as “a betrayal of the GFA”. Betrayal is an old familiar theme for us regarding matters Northern Ireland. Susan McKay’s new book majors on talking to what she has described in interviews as Lundys, Protestants inclined to stray away from the British cause. It’s also what fuelled the early rage …

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NI Protocol: “Pragmatic and flexible leadership needed from Belfast, Dublin, London and Brussels…”

giraffes, entertainment, discussion

“The beginning [of the new epoch] consists in the recognition of interrelationships. More and more, people will see that there exist no ‘specialised’ questions, to be identified or solved in isolation, since in the end, everything is interconnected, interdependent.” –Wassily Kandinsky With parliaments on both sides of the water in recess we might expect respite from the war of words that has displaced serious consideration of the Northern Irish protocol. However Brexit has eaten every summer since 2016. Just before …

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How Ireland Voted 2020: Certainly the end of an era, but the beginning of what?

I must confess, through a combination of not really having understood what happened in February 2020 and the long period of government formation and the onset of Covid I was thoroughly discouraged from delving into the south’s last election. Now, I have my copy of How Ireland Voted 2020. It’s a regular publication edited in previous years by Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh now joined by UCC academic Theresa Reidy. The biggest talking point in the whole book is Sinn …

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Water rates or hosepipe ban: why NI Water funding model needs to change…

I was on Nolan to discuss a hosepipe ban that’s imminent. In England Severn Trent has asked people to conserve water, but there’s no ban. Water services in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic have been investing massively in their systems. That’s not only brought leaks down within the system but allows them to keep up with ever rising demand as populations grow across these islands and demands shift up and down with the seasons. Meanwhile NI Water (as it …

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Provisional’s war against the NI public cannot provide a moral foundation for new constitutional order

This week’s coverage in The Economist magazine covers the amnesty proposal with just two words, Closure denied.   Sarah’s powerful polemic on the forgetting that the government now wants us all to do is already this week’s must read. In the Irish Times however, Liam Kennedy brings another, future angle to the process at a time when Sinn Féin activists are both pushing their movement’s bloody campaign and telling voters that the time for a united Ireland is, now. The President, Michael …

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Sinn Féin disowns the amnesty deal it’s been asking for incessantly for over twenty years…

One advantage of running a blog over a long time having access to the archives. Indeed, the reasons I turned to blogging software all those years ago back in 2002 was I struggled to find an article from just three years earlier in the Irish Times. Initially I used Slugger as a researcher’s pin board on which you could trace not just the day to day pulses in the newsflows (very much a feature when the number of journalists writing …

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Amnesty would deny victim’s right to know and underwrite the toxic legacy of paramilitaries

The Moral Maze programme on BBC Radio Four for last week focused on the perennial question of Northern Ireland’s legacy and gave careful consideration as to what the consequences of declaring an amnesty for past crimes might be. The legacy processes don’t really work largely because it’s a hodgepodge of negotiated pleadings from the leading protagonists in the conflict. Less aimed at truth and reconciliation and more at giving maximum comfort to those political operators who, should prosecutions ever proceed, …

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