“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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In coming to the only realistic deal on medicines the EU admits Protocol is a work in progress

Research from QUB showed last week that the protocol splits the NI population right down the middle. I suspect that’s reflection of the unreal way the negotiation process within the joint committee is being projected by both sides. Newton Emerson gives a good example of how the material reality the EU has been projecting dematerialised rapidly under pressure from harsh reality: As the year progressed, it quickly became apparent the medicines sea border was a practical and political absurdity. Private …

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Underneath the chaos of the last few months political ground is beginning to shift…

Newton is a great deal more certain than I am that neither Sinn Féin nor the DUP will bring down Stormont before the next scheduled elections. There’s nothing wrong with his logic, it’s just that in the past neither have always conformed to logic. My own gut feeling is that the overall trend is now heading towards the middle. The DUP is clearly in trouble in North Down which is why their poll topper there has jumped to independent. They’ve always …

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Finally, the Narrow Water bridge is going ahead as part of Micheál Martin’s Shared Island Initiative…

In private conversations I often reference the failure to bring this project to pass (despite offers from the EU to cover most of the cost) as a perfect metaphor for one of the key weaknesses in North South relations: a tragic unwillingness to build. Or within the wider political process that have arisen on foot of the Belfast Agreement: ie, a cataclysmic failure to understand that the core utility of bridges (metaphorical and literal) are the benefits it brings, not the …

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If the UK and EU “recognise” and “deal with” the “flaws in the protocol”…

Good spake from Newton Emerson which (like Brian Feeney’s piece on Wednesday) highlights another trapdoor in its rejectionist rhetoric around the Protocol… The cynically engineered electoral competition between Sinn Féin and the DUP ratcheted their votes up together, then down together as despairing voters deserted them in the Alliance surge, until the implosion of the DUP over Brexit suddenly left Sinn Féin polling 9 percentage points ahead. This is the “safety margin” for the nationalist electorate – the extent to …

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A chastened DUP which is willing to learn from its own mistakes might be the gift Donaldson needs. But is it?

Yesterday I was asked to do a couple of things in the media. One was on Andrew Neil’s new GB News station (which I can’t actually watch live) and the other was for The Irish Times Inside Politics podcast (starts about 33 minutes in): On both occasions I was asked to share my thoughts on the NI Protocol and the challenges facing the DUP leader elect, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. In preparing for both, a number of thoughts occurred to me …

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Fantasies of dominance are of no use in resolving Northern Ireland’s prisoner’s dilemma…

Say what you like about Brian Feeney, he is at least consistent.  Today, he futures on the options for Jeffrey Donaldson for bringing Stormont down (ie, triggering an election by doing exactly what Sinn Féin did and refusing to appoint an FM). He has grounds for speculation largely given to him by the DUP’s own rhetoric (and the odd behaviour of the East and Mid Antrim Council in seeking to open their own negotiations with the Cabinet office over Larne port) …

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Poots puts down a (removable) marker on the future improvement of the NI Protocol…

 The more cynical (and there’s been a lot of that even amongst the popcorn munchers here on Slugger) may interpret Poots’ ‘softening’ as some kind of bargaining plea from posterity, butt he’s also putting down a marker for future events. When asked about Edwin’s assertion this morning on GMU that Brandon Lewis had assured him there would be significant changes in the Northern Irish protocol he said he would not disclose the nature of private conversations. In truth, Poots himself …

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After its “double coup” tricky times lie ahead for whoever leads a divided DUP…

Well, that escalated quickly [So 2021 will be remembered for the year of three DUP leaders, at least? – Ed). Last night’s The View pretty much devoted itself to the Poots resignation, with some good commentary all round… Since it’s all gone very quiet afterwards (Gareth Gordon reports that DUP folks who have been phoning him for months now suddenly won’t return his calls), time for a few brief thoughts… Poots saw Arlene was in trouble and his opportunity to …

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Sinn Féin awarded another tribal slam dunk without actually putting a ball through any hoop…

Well, I must admit I read this morning’s announcement that a crisis last night (that nobody seems to have known about) was narrowly averted, with some surprise. Did anyone else know there had been an actual crisis over nominations today? Well, that post midnight meeting with the SoS gave Sinn Fein the perfect opportunity to run to the press and get their story out first. However, some of the early claims of what the SoS said fall very far short …

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How Sinn Féin’s multimillionaire assets buys it “the ability to ignore the will of the electorate.”

As Sinn Féin settles in as the largest single party in the Republic, here’s an interesting snippet from the Economist worth sharing on how it also became (by far) the richest… The newest income stream is the most intriguing. Two years ago the party revealed it had received £1.5m from the will of an English recluse, William E Hampton—by far the biggest donation in the history of Ulster politics. Cash from that source has continued to flow to the party, …

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