Fr Gerry Reynolds’ Anniversary & his 1994 Sermon on Forgiveness after the Ceasefires

I am writing a biography of Fr Gerry Reynolds, a Redemptorist who served 32 years in Belfast’s Clonard Monastery. His ministry encompassed some of the most difficult days of the Troubles; and he dedicated himself to praying and working for an end to the violence. So I am perhaps more aware than most that today is the third anniversary of his death. I also am aware that while I began the biography a few months before he died, it is … Read more

Yes, No Deal would be a disaster, but don’t fall for May’s claim that it’s the only alternative

Whatever you do don’t take Theresa May literally when she insisted before the Commons Liaison Committee that the stark choice lies between the withdrawal agreement and No Deal. Granted, re-opening the deal would be no breeze…  “What is clear is that any extension to article 50, anything like that, reopens the negotiations, reopens the deal. And at that point the deal can go, frankly, in any direction…. I think the most important reason why we should not be going down … Read more

Northern Ireland’s business community has united as never before to make sure it is heard and the consequences of crashing out of the EU next March are understood.

Stephen Kelly is the Chief Executive of Manufacturing NI, he writes for Slugger about why the Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union should be supported. A community has found it voice. Reluctant, yet determined, Northern Ireland’s business community has united as never before, to make sure is heard, and that the consequences of crashing out of the EU next March are understood. Some may have been frustrated that Northern Ireland’s businesses and their representatives have been too quiet, but we … Read more

Michelle & Arlene: Ulster Says Snow … making political satire out of stasis (Accidental Theatre, 6/7/13 December)

The fourth in the series of Michelle and Arlene satirical plays – Ulster Says Snow! – is due to hit the stage of Accidental Theatre in Belfast’s Shaftesbury Square next week. Running alongside the Human Rights Festival, Rosemary Jenkinson hopes that this new show can explore many different rights, rather than just being a narrow snapshot of local politics.

Why Brexit is going wrong and how it could be fixed (part 2)

This is the second of two posts here looking at Brexit through a democratic, rather than a political lens. In the previous post, I argued that the ‘cliff edge’ exit that is inevitable when leaving the EU is not sustainable for the EU, and that the UK would be doing everyone a favour by challenging it. The word “crisis” is over-used in British politics, but we are undoubtedly in one now. We have a Prime Minister who is trying to … Read more

What’s the antedote to “know nothing” populism’s rejection of complexity?

Although it makes me a little nervous when people draw from Yeats’ Second Coming this is an interesting take from Bobby McDonagh, who was Irish Ambassador in London during the referendum that ended up in a narrow but telling victory for exiting the EU… Complexity has been crucial in building the structures which enable peaceful co-operation between nations, including in Europe. The more simple ways of European history involved legionaries and siege engines, tanks and bombs. The complexity of today’s … Read more

“This is the “Canada-plus” option the EU at one point said it would never agree to…”

The Irish Times today carries the view of, the always worth reading, FT columnist Wolfgang Münchau on the withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU. First he makes a quick point on the opposition on both sides of the House of Commons… When British cabinet ministers resigned hours after the publication of the withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU, they could not conceivably have read it, let alone digested its finer points. Many of the MPs who denounced the … Read more

Why Brexit is going wrong and how it could be fixed…

This is the first of two posts here in which I’m going to look at Brexit through a democratic, rather than a political lens. I’d argue that Representative Democracy is humanity’s single most valuable invention. It has provided government that fosters a level of prosperity and a standard of justice that all of our ancestors could only dream of, and it has hosted history’s greatest period of innovation. Representative Democracy is a robust system. It has an internal logic – … Read more

If Mrs May doesn’t have the numbers, what then?

There are two perspectives growing around the Brexit deal. One in Ireland (where it is generally welcomed by majorities north and south), and the other in Britain, where the bulk of Parliament does not want to touch it. Only one of these matters. The Guardian has put together a guide to sentiment within the House of Commons… That the DUP has signalled their opposition, does not necessarily mean they will vote against it. Nor, when it comes to the threat of a … Read more

15 years on from the 2003 Assembly Election

Today marks 15 years since the DUP and Sinn Fein emerged as the largest parties, overtaking the SDLP and UUP at an Assembly level. For your viewing pleasure I have taken some clips from the five main party manifestos. DUP- It’s Time for a Fair Deal Key points; Reduce MLAs from 108 to 72 Abolish Civic Forum Cut back North/South bodies Reduce govt departments Redefine equality agenda Sinn Fein-Agenda For Government Key Points Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement Creation … Read more

The DUP are waking up to the idea that Fortress Ulster has no future. They should be encouraged, not abused

They are still talking in euphemisms.  They are desperate to avoid finding themselves suddenly on the losing side without any notion of the outcome. Goodness knows what Theresa May can offer to sell the withdrawal agreement when she visits Northern Ireland  on her nationwide tour. Experience of local negotiations argues strongly against side deals and the arguments have been so well rehearsed already. Entirely wisely, the DUP are for once hinting at a solution to the backstop conundrum other than … Read more

Why would the DUP NOT support a soft Brexit for the final deal that would get rid of border problems?

With the cabinet splitting every which way in all directions, Theresa May comes into her own as the ace stonewaller to every burning hypothetical question. As the fateful moment of signing the withdrawal agreement arrived in Brussels this morning, the prime minister was still insisting to the massed ranks of sceptics back home: “This isn’t about me. It’s not the case that there is another negotiation to be done. This is the deal that’s been agreed, it’s the only deal … Read more

Foster expresses deep regret for party’s mistakes over RHI while Boris imagines ‘UKNI’ dystopia but fails to excite DUP activists #DUP18

Read back key sections and listen to speeches from today’s DUP Conference. Arlene Foster apologised for the party’s mistakes over RHI, hinted at a ‘cultural deal’ and expressed her wish for devolution to be restored. Boris Johnson spoke about buses, Brexit and light sabres …

Future Ireland / Healthcare in ‘A New Ireland’

In producing the report – now a book – ‘A New Ireland’ this year, I conducted lots of interviews asking people about the prospect of Irish reunification.  The issue of healthcare in a united Ireland was consistently cited as a major concern. Northern perceptions of the southern system are very negative.  Views within the Republic are not that positive either, for sound reasons.  But it is only fair to point out that the NHS in Northern Ireland is in crisis.  … Read more

Peter Robinson urges the DUP to drop their ban on an Irish Language Act and get real about restoring Stormont

  Elder statesmen a.k.a. retired politicians often grow wiser in retirement after shedding the burdens of office and the cares of  party management. Sometimes their advice is welcome; sometimes it’s a stalking horse for a change of direction by their successors; sometimes it’s an embarrassment to them. We will soon know which it is this time. Conforming to type, Peter Robinson, for over forty years the usually steely self- disciplined deputy leader  then leader of the DUP  has offered some … Read more

Too many are unconvinced by Theresa May’s claim of alternatives later to the backstop. And some are prepared to ditch Northern Ireland

What matters next has changed.  Summit signing on Sunday apart, the next real stage of Brexit is not about Brussels but how MPs will react to what’s in front of them. The political declaration published today was full of warm words for a deep and meaningful relationship but it is clear that British options for striking out independently are constrained by the legal terms of the withdrawal agreement featuring the backstop. Try and she might to hint at a different … Read more

Northern Ireland sleepwalking to an off-script unification…

Northern Ireland is sleepwalking into an off-script unification, which commands a majority in the north but not in the south, or one which Dublin has failed to prepare for. A late Aug poll says Brexit creates a 52-39% majority for unification in NI. If no Brexit, 52-35% favours stay. However, only 31% of voters to the south favour unification if this increases taxes. (This compares with 63% if taxes remain the same – 2015 BBC/RTÉ poll.) NI would lose or … Read more

Is it possible to be friends with someone who has opposing political views?

I have watched John McDonnell’s interview on Newsnight and the question of being friends with a member of the Conservative Party. Now it’s important to point out this exists across politics and not just here. Surveys in the United States have shown some people who are Republicans wouldn’t marry a Democrat and vice versa. In the age of politics becoming more polarised between differing factions it’s disheartening to see such tribalism. Why, I hear you ask? Because in the same … Read more

A New Deal for Northern Ireland

Politics needs to change in Northern Ireland. How we govern needs to change. Our political culture must transform or our future will be at best no different to our present – political stalemate with a sluggish, dependency economy; limited investment and failing public services. Optimistically our current zombie government will continue to tick over, at worst we descend into a sectarian spiral and we all know where that can lead if unchecked.  We need politics to work. But it can’t … Read more

An odd turn of affairs for Mary Lou on what should have been a celebratory day for women in the Oireachtas…

Yesterday Mary Lou finally met with Máiría Cahill. But first, both women were included in a group photograph taken in the Dail chamber of current and former Oireachtas members for the centenary of women being able to vote and stand for election. What then passed was bizarre. Miriam Lord, colour and sketch writer for the Irish Times captured the brittle strangeness of the proceedings: It was a happy occasion, with many blasts from the political past lining out for this special … Read more