Has Gay Cake reached the end of the judicial road?

So the Gay Cake affair appears to be drawing to a close. The essence of the UK’s Supreme Court ruling appears to be that Ashers was discriminating against the cake rather than the gay man who had placed the order with them. It’s an odd, but very expensive, one. Thus far combined legal costs are up to nearly half a million. That will hurt the Equality Commission. Already, their inveterate opponents like (the still suspended) Ian Paisley MP is talking … Read more

IS DUP threat to abandon pact trick or treat?

Newnight’s Nick Watt broke the story just after the regular  morning lobby briefing in Downing St Just minutes before this story broke, a Downing Street source was asked whether the PM felt she could rely on DUP votes. “The confidence and supply arrangement we have with the DUP is a matter of record,” he said. “Is that a yes?” “It’s an answer? Yes The story.. Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party is planning to vote against the Budget if Theresa May … Read more

We shouldn’t let another attempt to deal with the Troubles legacy slip by

The submission of five former secretaries of state of both parties to the UK government’s  consultation on their draft Legacy Bill gives significant backing to the idea of an amnesty or statute of limitations.  It amplifies the call some of them and retired security chiefs made in the House of Lords last month. If the decision was to rest with the British establishment alone, an amnesty by whatever name would have featured as a formal option for dealing with the … Read more

The backstop with a good deal for GB can give Northern Ireland the best of both worlds

While Arlene is stuck in the grove of her blood red hard line, the local business community has found their own voice independent of politicians and have talked  to Peter Foster, Europe editor of the Daily Telegraph   700 miles away in Belfast, where the business community is trying to prepare the best it can for Brexit, despite all the uncertainty, the tone was markedly less apocalyptic ( than Arlene’s, stuck in a grove of red lines) . Declan Billington, … Read more

Sinn Fein’s incapacity to address the PIRA’s campaign illustrates a broader failure to make post GFA politics work…

So how long will our politicians do nothing? Well, there’s never really any such thing as “nothing”. In film, a pause in the action is often an opportunity for the audience to evaluate what’s gone before and make some thought space for what might come next. In the current dropped tempo of Northern Irish politics, the Irish Times chose to reassess that odd piece of business from Sinn Fein last week over legacy and castigates them for using a transparently unsustainable approach to … Read more

Earning trust “story by story”

Earning trust “story by story”: Can we believe the media? The role of journalism in the digital age by Allan LEONARD 4 October 2018 Ulster University — along with the UK press regulatory body, Impress, and the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) — jointly hosted a symposium event at its Belfast campus: “Can we believe the media? The role of journalism in the digital age”. Keynote speakers were Jonathan Heawood (Chief Executive Officer, Impress) and Peter Feeney (Press … Read more

C’mon Arlene – Be a stateswoman. Let’s all jump together

As the Brexit negotiations approach some sort of climax it’s unwise to take any public statement entirely at face value.  Indeed any statement may have the opposite significance to the words usually mean. Thus when Juncker imitates the Dancing Queen and  tells the world: “The rapprochement potential between both sides has increased in recent days, the Dancing Queen  interprets the optimism as pressure on her to give more concessions on the backstop. So she threatens to refuse to sign a … Read more

DUP threaten to break the Confidence and Supply Agreement

On Friday, on Twitter, DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson referred to a News Letter article concerning the ongoing state of brexit negotiations and said the following : If [Theresa May] is rolling back on her pledge that there will be no barriers between NI and GB, then the Prime Minister should be under no illusions; we will vote against her deal and it will go nowhere. This prompted me to check the Confidence and Supply Agreement, the text of … Read more

Future Ireland / Economic Inequality: An emerging challenge for a New Ireland

In October last year, I attended a keynote speech delivered by President of Ireland Michael D Higgins to a packed auditorium at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The speech was anchored around Michael Davitt’s 1896 visit to New Zealand, a visit where Davitt was impressed by the then Crown Colony’s progressive policies on land, tax, pensions and the economy. Subsequently, the founder of the Irish National Land League brought a number of these innovative ideas back to Ireland, to … Read more

We have it easy today compared to what happened after 5th October 1968

October 5 1968 was indeed a sort of Bastille Day for Northern Ireland when a single event triggered  a “ bliss it was to be alive” moment. Like the French Revolution it was  followed by a  long and darkening era of  violence  when “ things would never be the same again”. Of course it had deep roots in the past. It  emulated a wave of street actions in the US, Paris and Prague, all with different outcomes.   Whole volumes of … Read more

History won’t stop with Brexit but a whole new set of thinking must begin, on both sides of the water

So Michel Barnier calls for de-dramatisation and what happens? The drama gets worse. Newton Emerson describes it thus: There's a sense of mass hysteria around Brexit, from all sides. It's like the week of Diana's funeral stretched out over two years. — Newton Emerson (@NewtonEmerson) September 29, 2018 He’s not wrong. In a country with no written (ie, codified within a single reference document) Constitution, the struggle to translate an opaque plebiscitary outcome into a prosecutable plan of action it can … Read more

“No more than 300 [of the dead] were terrorists, a ratio of three to one. That is why we are still there”.

Bizarre tragicomic episode yesterday on the legacy issue which reveals the politics-on-stilts nature of the discourse around legacy, demonstrates SF intolerance of questions that undermine their own contention that the 1700 plus killings by the Provisionals “don’t count”. When Gerry Moriarty merely pressed them on that point the whole presser appeared to collapse (VIDEO, BelTel) under the weight of its own, apparently unconsidered, internal contradictions. Here’s Gerry probing firstly Michelle, then Gerry Kelly, then Michelle again… When further pressed on how Sinn … Read more

The UK and Ireland are closing in on a border solution

The FT hopefully leads:  “Ireland backs Theresa May’s plan for all-UK customs union with the UK”. The story is jointly by-lined by their political editor at Conservative party conference in Birmingham and their Ireland correspondent. She will offer to meet the EU half way on the vexed issue of the Irish backstop, agreeing to Brussels’ demands that Northern Ireland stay part of the single market regulatory area of the bloc. But, in return, she wants the EU to concede to … Read more

The Agreement can only be amended with cross-community support

20130410 GFA 15

Eyebrows were raised on the 2nd October when Arlene Foster commented that the Good Friday Agreement wasn’t sacrosanct, hinting that she would like to amend it to accommodate Brexit. Her words been praised but also widely condemned. Leo Varadkar responded by saying that “the Good Friday Agreement is not up for renegotiation” in the Dail. Anyone paying close attention will notice that Foster’s comments are very similar to statements made by her party colleagues, Jim Allister and Jamie Bryson over the … Read more

Don’t let Arlene cause panic. The GFA isn’t dead, only sleeping and will acquire new life

When Arlene Foster said the GFA wasn’t  “sacrosanct” was she deliberately provoking a fit of the jitters? What did she mean? The Irish Times had no doubts:        The apparent attempt by Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster to undermine the Belfast Agreement in pursuit of a hardline strategy on Brexit is ill-considered and dangerous. It would appear that the DUP is actively pursuing a policy designed to ensure the restoration of the hardest possible border on the island regardless of the consequences for living … Read more

With 80% of police recruits now coming from the Unionist community, is this another example of how Northern Ireland is regressing?

The Irish Times is reporting that the number of Nationalists joining the PSNI is continuing to decline, and they may need to reinstate the 50/50 recruitment policy. Four out of five recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are from the Protestant community compared to just one from the Catholic community, the PSNI has disclosed. If this trend continues then politicians will have to consider reinstituting the 50:50 Catholic:Protestant system of recruitment, the PSNI deputy chief constable Stephen Martin indicated on Monday. Under … Read more

Why protesters are taking over Dublin

Today is a day of action in Dublin, as protesters gather outside government buildings to demand action to a grinding housing crisis. Homelessness has hit record levels, and rents have hit such heights that even well-paid people are struggling to meet them. House prices have surpassed their Celtic Tiger levels, putting home ownership out of reach for even many in the middle class. How did the crisis reach this point? The new episode of The Irish Passport podcast explores the … Read more

Sinn Féin’s Presidential Candidate Appears to Distance Herself from the Party

Liadh Ní Riada, Sinn Féin’s nominee for the upcoming Irish Presidential election has appeared to distance herself from her party in much of her campaign material. This includes Ní Riada’s election posters which have begun to appear on lampposts around the country and include no indication of her affiliation to the party she currently represents in the European Parliament for the constituency of Ireland South. The colour scheme of the posters, mainly purple and white, also does not hold connotations … Read more

May’s team claim to find flexibility in DUP demand for legal guarantees for no checks ever in the Irish Sea

This is a running story .. Latest at 22.53 The FT leads with  DUP puts May on notice over Brexit backstop Arlene Foster tweeted defiantly: Meeting with Prime Minister just ended. NO border in the Irish Sea will ever be acceptable to unionists throughout the UK . . . regulatory or otherwise. Government sources claim there must be just enough wriggle room created by new time limits. But are they deceiving themselves  once again? From the FT story For some months, Mrs May’s team … Read more