Picks of the Week – First Communions, Protestant Gaels, Squaddies and Stuckness

There’s a lot of highfalutin political goings on at the moment. But what are the ordinary humans talking about? Here are some media magpie treasures from the last week… RTÉ Documentary on One rebroadcast the gorgeous 2014 doc, Mairead’s First Communion. It follows two culturally Catholic, but non-religious, parents’ experience of their daughter’s First Communion. They didn’t like the idea of her doing it, but 8 year old Mairead really wanted to, so they let her. There’s so much to … Read more

Equality has arrived but the DUP and Sinn Fein have yet to face up to what it means

“Equality” has always been a Sinn Fein buzzword. As the recanted ex- IRA man Shane Paul O’Doherty lethally today quoted Gerry Adams speaking in 2014: “The point is to actually break these bastards – that’s the point. And what’s going to break them is equality … That’s what we need to keep the focus on – that’s the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy is to reach out to people on the basis of equality.” Other views are  un-cynical … Read more

Debating the Nolan Show (and wider media) and its role in our political discourse

This is a really interesting exchange between Stephen Nolan and Professor Brian Walker this morning which is worth listening to in full. I have often debated this myself with other people in the media more generally. Are platforms, including Slugger part of the problem in a divided society? This is something I know people do ask themselves. Am I making the right calls? Am I just pandering in some respects to an instinct? Is there more we can do? Or … Read more

RHI: “the energy team did not include that crucial detail in the submission to her.“

And, what’s happening in the public inquiry into the RHI scheme? It seems like Northern Ireland lost its representative democracy for a departmental cock up not by Arlene Foster, but by an official(s): The cost of the ongoing subsidy scheme – which became the RHI scheme – was estimated to cost over £100m more than it had done in the report the previous month, meaning it cost significantly more than the other option. Mrs Foster decided to go for the … Read more

“secrecy produced agreement but stopped DUP from walking its supporters through each compromise.”

For a substantially more sanguine view on where the talks breakdown leaves us than my own, here’s Newton Emerson in the Irish News… The meaning of ‘progress’ in this instance relates to DUP talks negotiator Simon Hamilton’s statement last July that Sinn Féin cannot “demand a ten-nil win.” From what is known of last week’s deal, it looks more like a one-all draw. Most items on the talks agenda have simply melted away. RHI and Arlene Foster’s return as first … Read more

Does Brexit threaten rights protection for Irish citizens in the North?

What happens to a raft of human rights when we leave the European Union and the European Charter of Human Rights no longer applies? The question is raised by the leading constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor.  Successive UK governments (and I!) thought we had opted out of it for years, but the European Court of Justice ruled in 2013 that we hadn’t. Inevitably there is an Irish angle to this that may be of  particular concern to Irish-EU citizens in Northern … Read more

A St Patrick’s Day Grand Slam showdown at Twickers? Probably.

Ireland last won a Grand Slam back in 2009. In odd years, like 2009, Ireland play England and France (the 2 traditional heavyweights) at home – and odd years were therefore deemed Ireland’s best chance of winning a 6 Nations Championship and particularly a grand slam. But in more recent times, France’s form has fallen off a cliff and Ireland has taken to beating them both home and away. In contrast to France, Ireland has moved up the pecking order … Read more

Bring the electorate back into the deal and provide voters with both a carrot and a stick

If you missed it, and you want a reliable account of that ‘agreement that wasn’t an agreement’ let Brian Rowan take you through it in his usual careful and measured way… The only aspect of it that seems well worked is the language section (a milk and water version, according to Rick Wilford) and the breaking point there seems to be that the DUP won’t sign up to a stand-alone Irish Language Act. Nothing on the petition of concern, a … Read more

Congratulations are due to the DUP and Sinn Fein negotiators. How can the DUP be persuaded to implement it in their own long term interests?

After rubbing our eyes several times, the first thing  to do about the 13 pages of  the Draft Agreement published  in full by  Eamonn Mallie is to have it recognised for what it claims to be.   As Sinn Fein has already insisted on its authenticity, the initiative now lies with the DUP.  Clearly the document was the hymn sheet the secretary state Karen Bradley was working off in her Commons statement yesterday , although she understandably  refused to publish it, … Read more

Has the model of the GFA itself resulted in the impasse?

Paddy Wilson is a Postgraduate student at Queens University Belfast and a member of the Workers Party.  On Monday, David McCann gave his assessment of the political impasse between the former parties of the Executive and made the pertinent point that; “when debating whether its’ a failure, let’s compare it to the alternatives, not the Almighty.” Outside the remits of any deity, the GFA is a creation of people. I don’t believe that any system or solution that we create … Read more

Whatever happened to the ‘designated parents’ role in the Belfast Agreement?

As ever, the breakdown of Stormont, and the inability of the two main parties to agree on anything substantive is being treated as a novelty. In fact, when you put two ideologically rigid parties in a rigid system breakdown is merely the status quo. As Siobhan Fenton recalled with admirable clarity on Monday, the Belfast Agreement was the product of a liberal rather than the fanatical mindset that presently dominates thinking in both the DUP and Sinn Fein: The Good … Read more

Care is needed to stop the wheels coming off the Good Friday Agreement

I suppose it was inevitable. On the fringes of Westminster politics the alignment of Leave with a Brexit Union and Remain with support for the GFA is hardening, as shown in reaction to the failure so far to restore Stormont. This is what happens when people dip into the issues and pull out again. Living with them requires steadiness. Former secretary of state, stout Brexiteer and Shropshire lad Owen Paterson tweets that the GFA “has outlived its use.” Kate Hooey, … Read more

Some Community Guidelines and FAQ

On some days we get thousands of comments a day on Slugger: some of them come in at essay length. It’s impossible to get through every single one. But we do want to create a high-quality forum for debate here. In order to keep the standard high, we have some rules to discourage the abuse that ruins so many online conversations. Our aim is to provide a outlet for considered, considerate comments, encouraging creative conflict, shared understanding and at very … Read more

Meanwhile on Brexit … the British fog may be about to lift a little

Don’t get too excited, but this really could be a significant week for achieving greater clarity on British government aims for Brexit. The fiercely   anti-Brexit FT reports that on an awayday at Chequers on Thursday, Theresa May will nail her ministers’ hands to  the table  (well, the FT didn’t quite put it that way) until they agree on a high level of alignment between the UK and EU rules. Haven’t we heard something like that before? Oh yes, December’s joint … Read more

Why the Good Friday Agreement has a future

The Good Friday Agreement has come in for a bit of criticism over the past few days following the failure to reestablish a new Executive. It’s natural, when you are at an impasse to want to review and perhaps chart a new course. However, whilst I share a frustration with the current political situation, I don’t share this idea that we need to abandon the Good Friday Agreement as if it has failed us badly as a society. Writing in … Read more

The draft agreement revealed: So far but yet so near

The cats have been let out of the bag thanks to the sources of Eamonn Mallie and Barney Rowan, (Sinn Fein?). From documents of “a dozen pages or so plus annexes and separate agreements,” we pick up the story below from a week ago last Friday. The secretary of state will no doubt be questioned on the details in a statement on the talks failure  when the Commons resumes tomorrow.  The Sinn Fein leadership will meet Theresa May on Wednesday … Read more

Threats and opportunities: Unionism, and a strategic consideration of Gaelic language legislation…

Another contribution from long time commenter Willow on why unionism should develop a strategic view of its relationship with the Irish language.. Assuming that nationalists are not going to back down on their demand for an ‘Irish language act’, unionism appears to be at a crossroads whereby it has to decide which is strategically more important: restoring devolution or avoiding Gaelic legislation. The seriousness of this situation appears to have dawned neither on the unionist electorate nor (at least publicly) … Read more

“We have a range of options available to improve our society, but we must control ourselves…”

Nice piece from Ed Brophy (from before Friday’s launch of Project 2040). He argues domestic choice still outweigh globalisation, and recovery arise from a positive focus on the future: Shortly after Peter Sutherland’s recent untimely death, Fintan O’Toole wrote an ill-judged piece about his legacy, where he laid the blame for the populist counter-revolution that gave us Brexit and Trump squarely at the feet of Sutherland as ‘father of globalisation’. In doing so, he missed the most salient point, which … Read more

As the 20th anniversary approaches, the contrast is glaring between the commitment and success of the Good Friday Agreement and the neglect and failures of today

Bill and Hillary Clinton may register a no-show at a conference called to commemorate  the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement on 10 April, the Sunday Times reports. Organised by the impressively branded Senator George J Mitchell Institute For Global Peace, Security And Justice at Queens University, the conference line up includes every surviving key figure from the 1998 peace settlement except the incapacitated John Hume.  If Bill and Hillary scratch, Tony Blair may follow suit. And then … Read more