Sinn Féin’s burns its record on Russia…”the party simply wiped thousands of embarrassing statements from its website.”

“Every country has its own mafia. Putin’s Russia is the first where the mafia has its own country.”  –Garry Kasparov One thing that strikes me about our politics (north, south, east and west) is how we’ve become so exceedingly inattentive about the operation of dark money circulating not just in the wider economy and in culture (think Chelsea?) but in our politics. There’s something about larger volumes of cash (millions and billions) that renders them almost invisible to the public …

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Sinn Féin MLAs deserted their own minister’s legal advice but one DUP abstention forced them to retract…

Still think the DUP has collapsed Stormont. It might have been better if they had (so unpractised are some Ministers despite being a ‘natural party of government’, Sam McBride takes up the story: MLAs have voted, seemingly by mistake, to change the law in a way which would cut housing rents for every private renter by 10%, and a Sinn Fein minister is now desperately trying to undo what she allowed to happen. That such a thing could happen sounds …

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“The best way for unionism to have a debate with itself is to have a meaningful choice of parties.”

polling station, poll, election day

As ever Newton Emerson’s got it right. The best thing that could happen to unionism now is that it has a huge fight over its future. Voters whether actual unionists or those happy to remain UK want something more than the usual reflexive defensiveness or clarion calls against the other tribe. As we wrote in A Long Peace (now a long time ago, but sadly still relevant to a still too inward looking Unionism today)… Defensiveness is far too predictable …

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“And yet, as history pushes, the standup stands firm…”

man, newspaper, read

Dave Pell Via John Naughton’s blog this morning… As a teen during the Holocaust, my dad was hunted by Ukrainian henchmen working for the Nazis. When history pushed, he pushed back. Today, he would be proud of the courage shown by Ukraine’s Jewish president Volodymyr Zelensky. When the U.S. offered him an escape route, he responded, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.” Man, I wish my dad — who survived the Holocaust because he got a …

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Especially in a crisis, we must hold space for non political witnesses from every side of the room

avenue, trees, path

“Since 1945, Western Europe has enjoyed a holiday from history. That has bred and unearned sense of moral superiority vis-a-vis unluckier people.” – Simon Kuper, Financial Times 26/27 February, 2022 It should be obvious by now the world is not as comfortable, cosy or as unambiguously predictable as many of us have come to think of it. Even those of us who grew up with conflict in the 70s/80s/90s. Kuper writes with directness and uncommon appreciation of where we find …

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Russian insight on how they do information wars (and how the new demagogues use it in the west)…

After watching the Russian Ambassador on RTÉ’s Six One News just now, I thought I’d share these highlights from the Handbook of Russian Information Warfare. RTÉ Six One interview with Russia’s Ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov | Live updates: https://t.co/65zqcDbQ9X pic.twitter.com/1y7QfJUkh7 — RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 25, 2022 It makes for sobering reading (and will be somewhat familiar to consumers of domestic politics)… ‘A study of information dominance published in an authoritative Russian military source lists the main principles of media …

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Kenyan Ambassador’s lesson for the UN Security Council has resonances for any “new Irelander…”

road, street, winding

I’m currently deeply immersed in Fintan O’Toole’s absorbing tome “We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958” that an English friend recently lent me. As I came up for air earlier this morning on Twitter, I found someone had tagged me in this Tweet, featuring the Kenyan Ambassador Martin Kimani’s remarks to the UN Security Council yesterday. If you're gonna listen to any speech about #Ukraine 🇺🇦, let it be this one. The Kenya ambassador to the UNSC …

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And quietly perhaps we have the beginning of the end of the problematic protocol?

laptop, office, hand

In principle, do we finally have a solution to the invasive NI Protocol… (h/t Mainland Ulsterman)? 13/ The official said the EU had accepted in principle the UK argument that a distinction should be made between goods that are moving GB-NI and remaining there for end-users, and those goods which go on to cross the land border into the single market. — Tony Connelly (@tconnellyRTE) February 21, 2022 Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on …

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Forget about polls, it’s about time the SDLP made nationalism a coherent offer of their own…

vegetables, basket, vegetable basket

“Sometimes, you can actually bring home something that is food, food for the human community that we can sustain ourselves on and go forward.” — Terence McKenna The SDLP showed basic human decency in cancelling its conference this weekend. Statements from Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna, show that both of whom had known Chris Stalford from their pre-politics days. The decision went deeper than politics. The expression of human empathy is not often something that is seen as a political …

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Principal Deputy Speaker Christopher Stalford MLA dies

The DUP MLA Christopher Stalford was one the good guys. He was always sincere in his politics, proud of the fact he’d always been a DUP man, but typical of a lot of later generation politicians in Northern Ireland who wanted to see it become a better place. Not least for his four kids, who anyone with eyes to see could tell he loved deeply and with great tenderness. I’ll share just two statements which I think show the reach …

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Harder to take the tough decisions needed to address the northern housing problem, than complain about the same problems in the south…

sand, shovel, construction

My favourite line from Tom Kelly’s Irish News column on Monday was “in Northern Ireland positivity is sucked from the air like a Dyson on overdrive”. Of course, we’re not alone in that regard. Populism is hollowing politics as usual everywhere. Louis Theroux’s latest series opened last night on the BBC with a really interesting look at the new young alt Right in America, in which one respondent talked about how and why did not want to engage with a …

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This June we’ll have been twenty years a Slugging. Some brief reflections.

parthenon, greece, acropolis

Slugger will be 20 years old in June. That’s not something I ever expected to write. What set Slugger apart from other blogs at the time (which were mostly American, with a few Brits and Irish) was that I’d set it up as a research tool not a bully pulpit. I wanted somewhere I could pin other people’s stories, research and valuable analysis ahead of a project I hoped to get funding for looking to inject some intellectual capital into …

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Voter volatility has finally arrived in Northern Ireland, but which boats will it float?

beach, beaching, ships

There’s lots to digest in the latest University of Liverpool poll for the simple reason that some of its questions dig a little more beneath the surface than we’re accustomed. None of it is entirely surprising to those of us who’ve been paying attention. Jon Tonge had the headline figures on Twitter yesterday (NB he later amended the DUP’s rounded figure to 19% with the caveat that the SF lead over the DUP is now 3.8%): SF 23%, DUP 20%, Alliance …

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Getting a more unmuddled sense of Brexit through a larger set of perspectives.

mountains, sun, clouds

This is an excellent (and fairly non judgemental) outline of the Brexit process and why and how it got messy quite so quickly from Professor Anand Menon, Director of the UK in a Changing Europe…   I think the non judgemental bit is important if we are going to stand any chance of un-muddling things even if it is very hard to achieve… Anand breaks it down to the following… Leaving is hard Division is difficult The constitution is complex Trade …

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A functional new start would not be difficult to engineer, but will enough people vote for it?

hands, thumb, promise

When the Belfast Agreement was set up there was supposed to be a review to see how it was working and to make adjustments accordingly. But with the stop start nature of the way the institutions went at the very beginning it slipped off the table. What we got instead was s power play at St Andrews and a settlement in favour of the two biggest parties: think sectarian headcount (a “keep us all in jail” card for the DUP) …

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Standing strong or standing alone: Donaldson’s calculated gamble…?

So I’ve listened to Paul Given’s short resignation speech and the much longer one from the DUP leader, Jeffrey Donaldson. Judging from the emotion in his speech, it would seem unlikely that when we come back Paul will be the FM. That’s not because the party is anticipating coming second to Sinn Féin (though insiders accept that’s certainly possible given the limited polling we have on the subject), but that I doubt anyone other than Jeffrey will be a candidate. …

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“and subsequently defending the carefully choreographed show-funeral of former IRA enforcer Bobby Storey”

It’s curious the British PM should get into such hot water over what to more dispassionate eyes might be seen as people at the centre of a national crisis letting off steam. But in Johnson’s case, he’s been cursed by a doggedly disgruntled former insider. The stream of revelations (and its drip, drip, drip effect in the news media) is forcing even his own party to look again at what was only just over two years ago Johnson’s formidable vote getting …

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“…we need public leadership to nurture a new relationship of respect and rapprochement”

geese, goose family, goslings

I think I feel pretty much the same Fionnuala O’Connor does about politics in Northern Ireland (not sure if that is a good sign for either of us ;-)), when she writes… The centre ground flits in and out of sight, and fashion. A mirage that only causes frustration, a destination whose possible existence wins kind words from outsiders? In the narrow, over-ploughed north the centre’s dimensions are dubious, occupied over time by comparatively few hardy souls, present-day inhabitants hard …

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Loud and fiery Dail exchanges, but gripping the south’s housing problem requires perseverance, resolve and patience…

house, abandoned, urban

Well, the sparks certainly flew in the Dail this week. That’s probably to do with the fact Irish government regulations (which have been, with the exception of Christmas 2020, excruciatingly tight throughout the Covid period) are lifting. Like melt water freed from the glacier out came the key issue of the 2020 election: the ongoing disastrously acute rental housing shortage in the south. This Newstalk video (as did much of the southern press) focuses mostly on the passionate bits (and Mary …

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Poots [to] halt all checks on the East West Border…?

As this is breaking news, and I have no time to develop a hot (or even a cold) take, I’m putting this here: FM @paulgivan confirms that @edwinpootsmla will now act to unilaterally halt protocol checks at the ports. Says civil servants would be “absolutely obliged” to follow his instructions. “We believe that the checks continuing would be unlawful.” pic.twitter.com/OzhlJvIKzc — David Young (@DavidYoungPA) January 27, 2022 UPDATE: In David’s report in the Irish News… In September 2020, ahead of …

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