When are the DUP going to ditch the Tories?

“What did we do to members on those benches over there, to be screwed over by this protocol,” Ian Paisley asked in Parliament yesterday, “ask your hearts, what did we do?” Oh Ian. It’s a cliché at this point to quote Edward Carson’s “What a fool I was…” speech. It’s boring. We all know it by now. I prefer the bit after that famous line: “And of all the men in my experience that I think are the most loathsome it …

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New Decade, Same Nonsense

With the four-week circuit breaker due to expire on Friday, people across Northern Ireland are looking for certainty. Businesses need to know if they can re-open at the weekend. Workers want to know if they’ll get an income over the next few weeks. All the while, six of Northern Ireland’s hospitals are at full capacity. As of this morning, the Executive still hasn’t agreed a way forward.  Robin Swann proposed a two-week extension of the circuit breaker but this was …

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What is a shared island?

I am but a mere local political commentator who occasionally gets asked to do TV and radio. Occasionally I regurgitate my annoying opinions in written form. Thanks to my involvement with an upcoming Institute of Irish Studies project, I got the opportunity to ask the Taoiseach about the new Shared Island Unit. There were scenes on Whatsapp when I told my mum what I was doing. “Martin or Wee Higgins?” she texted, getting mixed up. In his speech, Micheál Martin …

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Northern Ireland Centenary: This country

This is about the centenary of Northern Ireland. But first, a slight detour. In Lucy Caldwell’s, ‘Multitudes,’ one of her characters describes the heartache of watching her teenage school friend move from Northern Ireland to England. “They’ve had enough is what Susan’s mum says. She just can’t take it anymore. ‘This country,’ she says to my mum. ‘This country,’ my mum says back to her, and neither of them says anything else.” The scene has always stuck with me because …

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Shared or united island? The Greens called it right.

The new banter coalition in the Republic has got off to a dramatic start. Ministerial sackings! A tax ruling from the ECJ! Infighting! It’s everything we could have hoped for. Among the chaos of this week came an interesting titbit from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. According to Ryan our own Clare Bailey, the party leader in Northern Ireland, was behind the decision to rename the ‘united island’ unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to the ‘shared island’ unit. …

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The curious case of the Department of Health

Abortion has been legal in Northern Ireland for over a year now. Under the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020, terminations up to 12 weeks are now lawful. Abortions after 12 weeks are heavily restricted. Terminations are available up to 24 weeks if there is a risk to the mental or physical health of the woman. There is no time limit where there is a fatal fetal abnormality. With the law firmly in place, it was expected that the commissioning of …

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Emma De Souza: a solution?

As we drift through another week in lockdown, it’s hard to believe that there’s anything else to discuss apart from Coronavirus. Thankfully, Northern Ireland’s unique brand of identity politics stops for no pandemic. Cast your mind back to last year and the case of Emma De Souza. I wrote about it here. Mrs De Souza’s case concerns Article 1(vi) of the British-Irish Agreement. That section states that the two governments recognise the right of: ‘…..the people of Northern Ireland to …

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What’s in the Coronavirus Bill?

This week the government intends to push its Coronavirus Bill through Parliament. In its “summary of impacts” document, the government states that the bill is “temporary, emergency legislation” which intends to “provide powers needed to respond to the current coronavirus epidemic.” MPs will be expected to grapple with the 300-page bill over the course of a few days. It will, for as long as it is in operation, fundamentally change our way of life. The legislation represents the biggest diminution …

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#BrexitDay-Nothing but damage

In Jan Carson’s The Fire Starters, there is a quote: “There is never enough silence to contain all our talking…….we continue to believe that across the sea, Europe (and also the world) is holding its breath for the next chapter in our sad story. The world is not waiting.” More than anywhere else in the UK, Brexit shifted the ground beneath Northern Ireland. It threw us down on different sides, sides that were also the battle lines that came before. …

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“Next Generation Unionism?”

As anger over Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement grows, one group of unionists has put out an “anti-betrayal act” poster. It sums up the current state of unionism. The poster portrays a baying mob with pitchforks. Apparently all unionist men dress like junior members of The Bar Library and work in an office. The language used is macho and patriarchal. There are no women on the poster, presumably because they’re all at home rolling their eyes. The poster comes at a …

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Now and Then

TW: This article contains references to sexual and domestic violence. On the 24th October 2017, the UK Supreme Court considered Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. The case was taken by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. In its judgment on the 7th June 2018, the Court found that the Commission did not have standing to take the case but found, obiter, that Northern Ireland’s laws breached Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The High Court in Belfast made …

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Total Recall: Assembly Edition

Last week 31 MLAs including the DUP, TUV and UUP signed a petition and sent it to the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly. That petition has led to a recall of the institutions. Tomorrow, the Assembly will sit for the first time since the death of Martin McGuinness. The prospect of the Assembly meeting again has many people raising questions. Can MLAs stop the introduction same sex marriage and abortion reform? Is there any prospect of a government being …

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Stormont Consent-what does it mean?

Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson 30 days to submit alternative proposals to replace the backstop. After a long wait (where it was speculated that the Prime Minister would merely amend the Withdrawal Agreement with tip-ex) the UK Government has finally submitted its plans. Spanning seven pages, Johnson’s proposals are a mis-mash of different ideas. All the hits you know and love are back. Remember Max Fac? It’s there. Nostalgic for Customs checks? Want a border down the Irish Sea? The …

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This isn’t a coup. We should still be concerned and angry.

Boris Johnson set off a political earthquake when he asked the Queen to prorogue parliament on the 28th August. There have been huge protests in London. Opposition MPs are demanding meetings with the Queen. The Speaker has issued a statement calling Johnson’s decision a “a constitutional outrage.” Many people will be cheering Boris Johnson on. Others will be frightened and scared at what lies ahead. It’s the reason why many are referring to the current situation as a coup. When …

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Unionist concerns and fears of a united Ireland: where are the women?

Another day, another report into a united Ireland. This time Senator Mark Daly has published his findings on, ‘Unionist Concerns and fears of a United Ireland.’ The report is based on a recommendation given to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Daly’s research contains writings and submissions from unionist political figures such as Mike Nesbitt, Kyle Paisley and Trevor Ringland. Dr James Wilson, at the request of Senator Daly, also conducted focus groups with …

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By acting on abortion and equal marriage, Westminster has changed the dynamic of the talks

One day in politics can change everything. The Northern Ireland Executive Formations Bill was, until the 9th July, an uninteresting piece of legislation. It proposes to amend the Northern Ireland (Executive and Exercise of Formations Bill) 2018, a law passed in the wake of the collapse of the Assembly. The Secretary of State introduced the 2019 Bill to extend the period in which an Executive must be formed until the 21st October 2019. There’s a clause allowing an extension of …

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Push: a warning for Belfast

There’s a scene in ‘Push’ where Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, visits the home of a woman in Chile. The house sits atop a leafy hill and has the marks of being well lived in for decades. The woman looks despondent as she shows Leilani about, pointing out the window. Behind her, you can hear the roar of building work. It’s so loud that the camera seems to shake. The source of the noise is …

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#EP2019-Tell them again: Northern Ireland voted Remain

There are certainties in Northern Ireland. Everyone goes on holiday in July. A single crash on the Westlink will halt traffic across the country. An Ulster Fry is the best breakfast. The final truth: politics follows a script, the same story over and over again. We have our moments but we tell people that nothing ever really changes. May has been an extraordinary month for Northern Irish politics. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the past few …

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Go, Prime Minister and take Karen Bradley with you

Theresa May’s voice broke as she reached the end of her resignation speech. Known as the ‘Maybot’ throughout her premiership her exterior finally cracked. She sounded close to tears as she said it had, ‘been the honour of her life’ to ‘serve the country that I love.’ She wasn’t this emotional during the Windrush scandal, a horrifying disaster of her own making. May’s resignation starts the bell ringing for the Conservative Party leadership contest. Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Hunt …

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Alliance Party gains point to a problem within unionism

Same old, same old. That was the prediction for Northern Ireland’s 2019 local elections. We’ve still gone one more day of results to come but it’s been anything but boring so far. From Aine Grogan’s stunning victory in Botanic to Paul McCusker’s vote tally in Oldpark, there have been some notable headlines in this election. Progressive unionist Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston lost her seat but People Before Profit’s Fiona Ferguson triumphed. The DUP went up and it elected its first openly gay …

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