“There is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended.”

geometry, zirkel, setsquare

“The time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.” -Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano here have been proposals for ‘Dealing with the Past.’ None of them appear to work either in securing prosecutions or in allowing the community to future-proof political, social and economic life.   Solutions collide as political intent, perceived victim hierarchy and contentious narratives produce unchallenged trust in their own ideological flatness. Blame and justification are voiced accordingly; accusation and counter-accusation ensue within a deeply …

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Northern Ireland needs a Protocol it can use and not be used by….

Politics is not devoid of emotion. It may or may not inform how outcomes are seen. The High Court may have concluded that the NI Protocol is not in breach of the Good Friday Agreement and the principle of consent. It feels otherwise. Many who in 1998, largely on the basis of that principle, with Europe barely a consideration, allowed their heads to rule their hearts and supported the Agreement, now perceive it as undermined. During the post-Brexit debates, there was …

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There you are waiting for a new leader and like a bus, two come along one after another.

Well, the DUP has had close connections with bus companies for some time.   The tactics which got under way at the Ramada Hotel have won the day and Edwin Poot’s brief term as leader is over. It would appear his on the surface clumsy leadership played no little part in throwing wide the exit door as he managed to unite friends and foes against him   Unfortunately for the DUP the ‘proverbial elephant remains in the room.’   It …

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“I have always made one prayer to God, a very short one;” O God, make our enemies ridiculous!” And God granted it

If any political opponents of Unionism have been offering a similar prayer to that of Voltaire, it is being answered as the DUP now exhibits all the traits of political disarray leading to despair, criticism and doubt amongst the support base internally and externally. With the DUP holding itself up to ridicule, some are already suggesting that the party is a ‘busted flush’ and will not ascend to the heights of past electoral success. With an Assembly election due next …

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When the new leader of the UUP talks of getting smaller, that’s the easy bit…

“We may have to get smaller before we get bigger” The words of the new UUP Leader, Doug Beattie MLA, echo those of a previous UUP leader Mike Nesbitt MLA, when speaking at a leadership hustings debate in Londonderry in 2012. His ultimately unsuccessful opponent was John McCallister at the time an MLA, a strong advocate for formal opposition at Stormont and closely associated with Basil McCrea, also an UUP MLA. Both left to form NI21. Both parties ended up …

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If Edwin Poots emerges as leader of the DUP, could this be a blessing in disguise for Unionism?

Watching the events which led to the resignation of First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster MLA and the subsequent declaration of his candidacy by Edwin Poots- initially understood to be for both position there was a deluge of reaction on social media some of it bordering unnecessarily on vitriolic comment. Not a lot is gained from such. More measured words were reflective of strong opposition to and distaste for the perceived insensitive nature of DUP politics. Clearly, many people …

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Is this an opportunity to re-align Unionist politics?

Religious allegiance in Northern Ireland however flawed or sincere in its’ expression has been a complex factor in shaping communal differences, loyalties, bigotry and conflict. In doing so it has served to successfully inoculate against the potential value of beneficial insight and teaching. Perhaps not as many as was once the case, there are those familiar with a parable found in the New Testament wherein ‘pouring new wine into old wineskins’ is not advised. Those qualified to comment more fully …

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The embers of sectarianism and violent protest never seem to burn out and are all too easily fanned.

“Young people in Northern Ireland are heir to an historical legacy of sectarian social division.” Acts of Union: Youth culture and sectarianism in Northern Ireland, Desmond Bell, 1990   “North Belfast is witnessing the creation of the next wave of paramilitary gunmen. Today they are aged eight, their stones bouncing harmlessly off the …..police Land Rovers…… But  unless things change ….many of these children…….. will know exactly how much sugar is needed in a petrol bomb.” Belfast streets spawn a …

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The NI Protocol is shaky ground upon which to build a better future.

In addition to some unionists echoing the worst traits of ‘big house unionism ‘with patronising and condescending statements stressing working class credentials, parroted condemnations of recent protests and street violence, the main thrust, of a for once civil conversation between MLAs, highlighted leadership but lacking in any visible self-referencing. The special sitting of the Assembly did not seem to achieve much There was little emphasis on the fact that the first person that any erstwhile leader has to lead is …

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When people feel their voice is ignored; that everyone is not equal before the law they must be heard and understood

We are told that many of our politicians are decent people who just want to do their best for their constituents. Why does this change in the political arena where there is little willingness to move beyond the fixed position? If what we see at Stormont is ‘doing their best’; spare us the worst. If it was a sports pitch, we have parties and individuals attempting to play private games of Gaelic football, hurling, rugby, football and hockey at the …

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How do we build a future beyond a political world of power, privilege and self-indulgence?

Judging from the response to the actions of Sinn Fein leaders at the funeral of the late Bobby Storey and the subsequent, now interim, ruling of the PPS, a shared island, Ireland or Northern Ireland appears elusive. Throw into the mix the NI Protocol, the evident toxicity of relations within the Executive at Stormont and a looming partisan assault on the Health Minister over waiting list and the health-related legacy of Covid-19, it becomes clear that going forward, much needed …

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Diversity is a fact of life. Inclusion is a choice. For unionism there is no other choice.

With increasingly persistent speculation about a new Ireland and insistence, bordering on arrogance, that the result of any tribal headcount referendum for Irish Unity is a foregone conclusion, Irish Nationalism is beginning to wonder aloud how it needs to prepare for an influx of disenchanted Unionists. Be careful what you wish for comes to mind. Closing down the ‘failed state as a separate jurisdiction ’to absorb the North will mark the beginning of a testing journey through a minefield of …

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The games people play; Protocol runs into Extra Time…

Autumn and winter competitions near their conclusion. Ireland will not win the ‘Rugby 6 Nations’ but in what has been an eventful series fans will be focused on the Aviva stadium to watch what should be a competitive game. England and Ireland will play for pride and aim to finish the series more successfully than they started. Irish supporters, North, South, East and West, looking to see how Ireland are progressing with the Rugby World Cup not far away, will …

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Dublin understands that “re-unification” without reconciliation won’t work, so how do we ‘engage’?

“Why won’t Unionism engage?” Considering  that we were sharing a return train journey from the last  of the All-Ireland Dialogues, that I had been to two Ardfheis in Derry, one with Londonderry Bands Forum, met with OTRs in Letterkenny, where one father confided  that he just wanted to get his son back from Canada, met with ex-republican prisoners in Belfast, Senators from the Seanad,  had attended a public meeting  about Brexit in Letterkenny, facilitated by an ‘on the night’ impressive Helen …

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The EU needs to face up to the truth that the GFA is being undermined in spirit and context.

In referring with regularity to the fact that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland did not vote in favour of Brexit, the European Union, including the Republic of Ireland, never seems to have understood that whilst an estimated 35% of the pro-Union constituency in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, they did not vote to be treated differently to the rest of the United Kingdom or, excluded as a contrived special case within a final deal. No …

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Health cannot continue to be dealt a poor hand behind more populist projects at the Executive table

After his sharp riposte to being called a poodle, we can at least see that the Minister of Health has had the better ‘house-training’ but is this the best political representatives have to offer a few hours prior to an announcement that waiting lists have increased? If anything, the NHS needs a watchdog. Figures provide a picture of increases with small decreases that make uncomfortable reading for the 323,174 waiting for a first consultant-led appointment, the 13,043 waiting for a …

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Reframing the past in order to live out a better future ought to be non negotiable…

‘History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived; but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.’ Whilst they seem much in keeping with his thoughts, the words of American novelist, poet and activist Maya Angelou may not have been in the mind of Irish President Michael D Higgins when, in December 2020, he launched the first of a series of Machnamh 100 Conferences, the central aim of which he stated as: “encapsulating meditation, reflection, consideration and thought’’ Continuing in …

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Unionism would have a better future if it rediscovered its heritage in standing up for human rights

Recent developments have seen the emergence of two groups which are gaining traction and receiving a positive response on social media – We Make NI and Uniting UK. Uniting UK commits to ‘uniting NI in a better union.’ We Make NI, less avowedly pro-Union is described as ‘a platform to celebrate NI and debate our shared future in an inclusive, imaginative and positive way.’ Thus far the platform has featured the diversity of those who live in and  for whom …

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The future cannot be solely about the NI Protocol, so be the unionist you need to be…

Without any obvious sense of irony, Ian Paisley Junior MP, having managed to unashamedly associate theIRA with Catholicism a few days before, sought to corral Prime Minister Boris Johnston with the inference that, if he is a unionist, then he is not the type of unionist which Unionism needs. It begs the question: what does it need? Unionists and those who identify as pro-union need to address this beyond groaning and grandstanding. At the moment evidence abounds as to what …

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Time for a more equitable tune between the two parts of Ireland, the UK and Europe?

Is the ‘Shared Island’ Initiative launched by Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD at risk of sinking below the waves caused by the pandemic, a border in the Irish sea, the noise of the opportunistic and thumpingly populist ‘prepare for a Border Poll and Irish Unity’ lobby and  a nearly vaccine supply war launched by the EU on Northern Ireland’s most vulnerable? To deploy that wonderfully mangled Dublinese Captain Boyle in Juno and the Paycock: are we all just in “a terrible …

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