On the need for a positive sum game on NI’s constitutional questions..

Some interesting and positive exchanges on The View on Thursday, on the overly stressed (and still largely hypothetical) question of a United Ireland.  First of all here’s Gareth Gordon’s analysis… And then there’s this strikingly focused and substantive discussion between Christopher Stalford, Colum Eastwood and Kellie Armstrong…. 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, … Read more

IT Poll suggests pre-Christmas Brexit euphoria around Taoiseach is starting to wear off

I’m generally not minded to bother readers with polls unless they tell us something new or challenging. Today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI contains some details I think are well worth noting. Here are the headline figures… Not a lot of change in the general pattern (note that independents still sit on shrinking ground), though as Damian Loscher notes Sinn Féin is up three points to 22%, its highest rating in this poll since early 2016. He also notes that: Sinn Féin … Read more

RHI Inquiry: “Dr Crawford I’m not inviting a comment from you, thank you.”

Coming back to Slugger (after a few weeks mostly out of the saddle), the most interesting item appears to be the RHI Inquiry. It is clear Sir Patrick Coghlin does not share the view of previous members of the judiciary that Stormont is a delicate flower. The BBC reports that he… …cautioned the public that if they heard something “sensational” in media coverage they should seek out the evidence themselves. He said the inquiry had gone to great lengths to ensure … Read more

“I have no ideological objection to Sinn Féin being part of a government.”

AFTER months of denials that FG would contemplate a coalition, here’s an interesting and telling story breaking today in Dublin… A Fine Gael minister has denied he was slapped down after declaring no objection to Sinn Féin in government, adding that many of his party colleagues share his view. Jim Daly said he spent two hours with Leo Varadkar on Wednesday and the purported controversy over his comments that Sinn Féin’s mandate was legitimate was never raised once by the … Read more

Blog writing #2: Quickness and the release of instinctive knowledge

“In the even more congested times that await us, literature must aim at the maximum concentration of poetry and of thought.“ –Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium Calvino’s lectures happened before Tim Berners Lee assembled the world wide web. So they do not anticipate particular forms or procedures but are meditations on how the writer might best humanly respond to the cumulative demands of the computer age. There were established clues as to how the world was moving. In … Read more

Blog writing #1: Lightness in the pursuit of actionable insight…

“I tried to find some harmony between the adventurous, picaresque inner rhythm that prompted me to write and the frantic spectacle of the world, sometimes dramatic and sometimes grotesque.” –Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium In the first of a series of short blog essays that explore different aspects of writing for the internet, my rough guide is a lecture series by the Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels Italo Calvino. Each one recommended different qualities he … Read more

Fine Gael’s constitutional sloppiness over the institutions of the GFA rooted in domestic concerns?

20130410 GFA 15

One of the effects of the poor networking of knowledge we’re getting at the moment is easily seen in the poor conceptual grasp, first of all, Sinn Fein and latterly Fine Gael, has on the institutional architecture. No matter how many times they repeat it, the BIIC cannot replace Stormont. Newton puts them straight… Last November, when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar first proposed reconvening the conference to address the Stormont crisis, he got this crucial detail wrong, telling the Dáil: “If nothing is devolved, … Read more

Blog writing: Meaningful inquiry matters far more than being “liked” on Facebook or Twitter…

Today, no one says, as they once did when Slugger took its first shaky steps as a blog back in 2002, that the internet has no effect on our politics, our communities or our society. But even then, readers were finding a voice and traditional gatekeepers fading. Roll on fifteen years no one doubts it. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica (CA) story one company has seemingly “undermined democracy, swayed elections, and enabled Brexit!” For good measure, it has also helped put a … Read more

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