And man created the nation in his own image

When we say we belong to a particular ethnicity or nationality, we are implicitly saying that we share traits in common with the other members of this group. Or are we saying that the other members of this group share traits in common with us? There is a subtle but important distinction. In the popular imagination, the formation of an ethnic or national identity is an objective process whereby the members of the group find commonalities amongst themselves and thereby … Read more

Is it time for the churches to become more Christian?

Cathal O’Hagan is a Monaghan native and law graduate, currently doing an MA in Conflict Transformation at QUB. Just like there isn’t momentum for a re-prohibition on contraception; or mood for re-implementing a ban on divorce, the penny will soon finally drop that debates over marriage equality and abortion are not the way for churches to regain influence in Ireland. Churches can either continue with the prominence they give to so-called “moral” issues, or they can refocus on the core … Read more

Who Benefits from the Collapse of Power Sharing?

We’re unlikely to know for a long time exactly why talks on restoring devolved government collapsed in such spectacular fashion last week. It’s always worth asking, in those circumstances, ‘cui bono?’ A long-term collapse in devolved arrangements, and a return to Direct Rule, whether or not it is acknowledged as such, would seem at first blush to benefit the DUP, at least in the short term. It also represents a significant shift in power within the DUP, away from Foster … Read more

Blind spots in cultural terminology

One long-standing problem in Northern Ireland is the fact that many things have multiple names, the choice of which can be both revealing and controversial. Derry/Londonderry is the most well-known example, and the name of Northern Ireland itself (or the avoidance of it) can also cause friction. However, such problems can be glossed over by simply ignoring the speaker’s choice of terminology, as it does not introduce ambiguity into the discussion. Less obvious are those things that do not have … Read more

Shibboleth and sibhialtacht

The Irish-language issue is back in the headlines again. Despite the best efforts of campaigners such as Linda Ervine, it is still the case that most ethnic-unionists define themselves at least in part by their rejection of the Irish language. Never mind that some of their ancestors must have spoken it, as evidenced in many cases by their own surnames. Unionists have abandoned the mother tongue of their ancestors in much the same way that German-descended Americans have abandoned theirs. … Read more

Two Irelands, One Planet: Thinking Like an Eco-System Can Help Bind New Executive

While the North continues to languish as one of Western Europe’s ecological backwaters a gap has begun to open up with the Republic of Ireland when it comes to policy innovation. Two recent developments may prove to be tipping points in legislating for climate justice and environmental rights in Dublin. The most recent came just last week in the Oireachtas with the successful passage to Committee Stage of an opposition-sponsored initiative, the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) Climate Emergency Measures … Read more

Belfast Central Station to be renamed “Lanyon Place”

(picture courtesy “Lambert” on geograph.org.uk) An interesting tidbit in the news today with Translink announcing that Belfast Central Station is to be renamed “Lanyon Place” following a programme of refurbishment due to be completed in September. From the press release : The Lanyon Place area has become a major hub of activity, with the ‘Lanyon’ name being adopted by a range of neighbouring businesses, alongside Belfast City Council’s exciting plans for the Lanyon Tunnels. ‘We consulted with a range of … Read more

The limits of transactional politics

Contract law is a vast subject, but at root, it is the process of making and enforcing agreements between two parties that do not fully trust one another. Any mutual mistrust is compensated for by mutual trust in some other mechanism. This could be a dispute process set up by the contract, an authoritative third party such as the courts, or simply the ability to abrogate the contract and walk away. Contracts and agreements are transactional – each party accepts … Read more

What a Citizen’s Assembly can do for NI politics…

The Building Change Trust is funding a pilot Citizens’ Assembly initiative to take place in Northern Ireland in 2018 around a single topic. The project will be delivered by Involve – a charity that specialises in public participation.

More information on the nuts and bolts of the project can be found on the Trust’s website here. In this short video, the Trust’s Paul Braithwaite explains how he thinks a Citizens’ Assembly could play an important role in refreshing Northern Ireland’s democracy.

Mick 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, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

One thing that unionists might want

In a previous article, I made the bold assertion that “Nationalism has nothing that Unionism wants”. What I should have said was “Northern Nationalism has nothing that Unionism wants, and Nationalism in general has nothing that Unionism wants… yet”. While Northern Nationalism may still not have much to attract Unionism, after 30th March next year the Republic will have something that unionists may quickly find themselves jealous of. MEPs. While their colleagues in Stormont and Westminster get seemingly endless airtime, … Read more

Our son of a bitch

The headline of Doug Beattie’s article in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday illustrates how sloppy language and sloppy logic hinder rather than help the process of understanding. Leave aside the article itself for now; one sentence in the headline alone (“Republicans weren’t victims, they were victim-makers”) contains a prime example of both. Firstly, the sloppy language of “Republicans” fails to distinguish between the Provisional IRA and those people who never picked up a gun but would still regard themselves as Republican. … Read more

PM Tess and Good Queen Bess

Theresa May has made much of being a vicar’s daughter in seeking to build her image. Less remarked on is that she is from a particular sub-tradition within the Church of England, and so deeply formed by it that its particular take on English history will shape how she sees the UK’s relationship with mainland Europe. In thinking about Brexit, she must inevitably perceive echoes of the last time England was so bitterly riven about its identity and destiny, in … Read more

Making friends with the cat next door

One of the most disappointing things to come out of recent NI political history was Sinn Féin’s much-vaunted, but quickly forgotten, Unionist Outreach project. In theory, this had a lot of potential. In practice, it was like a toddler trying to make friends with a cat. To make friends with a cat, you have to make no mistakes. It doesn’t matter how many nice noises you make, or how nonthreatening you make yourself appear. One wrong move and the cat … Read more

How brexit is destroying NI’s centre ground – and could take the Union with it

The brexit negotations are not going well. During the course of the past few weeks, we’ve seen a sharp deterioration of Anglo-Irish relations as the Irish government found themselves with no choice other than to call out the UK government’s lack of preparation or proposals on how it would approach the sensitive matter of the Irish border in the context of the UK’s departure from the EU. Today, we’ve seen the DUP intervene to scupper an agreement that had been … Read more

Local Environmental & Planning Governance Under Scrutiny (Somewhat)

On the heels of another damning report on failures relating to compliance with environmental and planning rules, Northern Ireland will be subject to international scrutiny December under the aegis of the authoritative United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Aarhus Convention. The Convention – named after the Danish city where it was adopted in 1998 – grants citizens rights and imposes on Parties (including the UK) and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to environmental … Read more

The postwar ID requirement between Northern Ireland and Great Britain

Reading through some old Wikipedia articles pointed me to an interesting exchange in the House of Commons, back in 1948. Ulster Unionist MPs Conolly Gage and Major Samuel Gillmor Haughton rose during an adjournment debate to complain about the requirement for a permit or passport to be presented for travel between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Mr Gage opens by highlighting the inconvenience of this arrangement : As everyone knows, Ulster is as much a part of … Read more

Continued Devolution or Direct Rule? Some Scenarios

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Parliament_Buildings_Stormont.jpg

Since 1707, Northern Ireland has had roughly 160 years of devolution/home rule and 151 years of unitary government/direct rule. The long time perspective helps to put the current difficulties over forming an Executive into context. First the history in brief, followed by some scenarios for what might happen next for the governance of Northern Ireland. Since the 1998 Belfast Good Friday Agreement there has been one long period of ‘Direct Rule’, lasting for nearly five years, from 14 October 2002 to … Read more

Pensions, Reparations and Reintegration: Parallel Processes for Injured Ex-Combatants and Civilians

by Luke Moffett and Kieran McEvoy (School of Law and Mitchell Institute, Queen’s University Belfast) While talks remain on-going about the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, Secretary of State James Brokenshire has apparently confirmed to the Victims and Survivors Forum that a public consultation on dealing with the past will go ahead in the coming weeks. It appears likely that a pension for injured victims, a controversial and important part of the dealing with the past for … Read more

On Voluntary Coalition

I note, during coverage of today’s UUP conference, that once again that Robin Swann is advocating voluntary coalition. He’s not the only advocate of voluntary coalition, and he’s certainly not the first. In fact it has been an ideal for both the  UUP and DUP, since the old Stormont parliament was prorogued in 1972, to return to the approach of government by a simple majority. Jim Allister is also well known for supporting this view. I’ve heard other Unionist spokespersons … Read more

“The Laws of Nature Need Not Apply Here” – Ophelia is a sign of things to come

  The Northern Ireland administration’s late and confused hurricane warning to school children and young people parallels local political attitudes to climate change. By failing to take climate change seriously even when the evidence is hitting us in the face we are disregarding the rights of our children and young people. The late, confused and inefficient warning on Sunday evening to students and parents is like a metaphor for the slow, confused and ineffective response that government has made here … Read more