“The relationship between the two governments hasn’t been everything it should have been…”

  Cue Arlene saying it is all over, “in our view, there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an executive being formed”. Her Majesty’s government, “to set a budget and start making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals and infrastructure”. As the UUP leader pointedly noted Tuesday, the no deal came after 402 days of deadlock. From what I can figure, the idea for three interlocking acts came from a senior civil servant, possibly the same one … Read more

London and Dublin must clear their lines for close cooperation on direct rule

Clarity rather than coyness is now needed over moves toward direct rule. Working on its  scope and duration is one more compelling reason for London and Dublin  to stick together.  On Monday at the otherwise disastrous Stormont meeting, Theresa May and Leo Varadkar pledged “to work together on a new plan on how to achieve a frictionless Irish border.” Good luck to them with that. On the continuing local stand-off, two elements are essential. Enough action must be taken to … Read more

Despite the political stalemate, are most of us neithers?

More people in Northern Ireland identify as ‘neither’, than as unionist or nationalist. I did a double take when I read this in Katy Hayward’s Guardian piece yesterday. It doesn’t feel like it right now. It couldn’t possibly be true? It’s true. Here are the latest figures. This isn’t reflected in the way we vote though. So, does this mean the neithers are secretly at loggerheads? Probably not. In Katy’s words, “The electoral dominance of Sinn Féin and the DUP … Read more

The need for an agreed history…

“History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake”. Oh Mr. Daedalus, if only you had been in Northern Ireland in 2018. History is everywhere in our political reality, and also somehow nowhere. It is slippery and vague, not unlike the content of a nightmare the moment the dreamer jolts awake. I turned 18 a few weeks before I voted for the first time, and that vote was on the Belfast Agreement. It was, to me, … Read more

The fallout continues………


Today’s developments, starting off with Sinn Fein President, Mary Lou McDonald (I have highlighted key bits); The DUP leader brought this phase of negotiations to a close and said “there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an Executive being formed”. “It is up to Arlene Foster to explain this given that the DUP and Sinn Féin leaderships had achieved an accommodation across the issues involved. “In fact we had a draft agreement by the end of last … Read more

Next time, the governments must not leave it entirely to the DUP and Sinn Fein in secret

It would have been a remarkable feat if the DUP and Sinn Fein could have  struck a deal  in secret, alone and unaided.  Secrecy may be essential for last moves to reach a compromise. But over a year none of the ground had been prepared with the public and it showed. The background was too noisy – RHI, the sudden illness and death of McGuinness, minority governments in London and Dublin with other fish to fry, including monumentally,  the throwback … Read more

Was an Irish Language Act really a bridge too far?

What a week. The DUP Leader, Arlene Foster has brought the curtain down on the current round of talks. It is commonly assumed that selling a stand alone, Irish Language Act is just something that would be a bridge too far for any Unionist leader. However, just taking a stroll down memory lane I wonder is this actually a fair representation of where Unionist voters actually are. Do I think they want an Irish Language Act? No. Would it be … Read more

Arlene’s Valentines Day Massacre

Today could not have turned out any bigger a mess for the incumbent DUP Leader and would-be First Minister. If sources are to be believed the Fermanagh MLA was ready to sign off on a deal which would have seen 3 Bills introduced : An Irish Language Bill An Ulster Scots Bill A Joint Respect Bill What has happened since the weekend to put the Stormont train off the rails? A DUP Group meeting on Monday morning, 3 days of … Read more

“The balance underpinning this place is that Nationalism and Unionism must work together…”

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood on the breakdown of the talks… “For 13 months the public have been without a government, without any change and without any power. Despite interventions from the SDLP, the DUP and Sinn Féin have kept people here entirely in the dark. It appears this negotiation has now failed. There is only one way through which the public can judge this failure – the details of this deal must now be published. As the party most centrally … Read more

For a political deal ever to emerge, mutual ignorance needs to faced and mutual respect observed

Mick has rightly just pointed out how tantalising easy the language issue could be to solve, were it not for the politics that expresses a far deeper  mutual ignorance ( in both senses) than is often recognised and which 20 years of supposed power sharing has failed to reduce.  Politically there must be limits to the management of the voluntary apartheid state we appear to be creating before cohesion collapses altogether.  That moment may not be as far off as … Read more

“I respect the Irish language and those who speak it but in a shared society this cannot be a one-way street”

So now we know. Sinn Fein’s refusal to countenance the three-Act solution means no deal is possible. No deal means Sinn Fein will continue their boycott of Stormont. Here’s the DUP Leader’s statment from this afternoon… For almost four weeks, we have been engaged in intensive negotiations with Sinn Fein. We have attempted to find a stable and sustainable basis for restoring devolution. Those discussions have been unsuccessful. Despite our best efforts, serious and significant gaps remain between ourselves and … Read more

Much poison to drain from what should have been a very simple piece of business…

So does anyone know what’s in this putative Acht na Gaeilge? Not yet, but if we look for precedents in Wales and Scotland, they have Acts which radically diverge because they reflect needs in each place. In Wales, the language remains central to community life in vast swathes of the country. Its religious Baptist tradition put Welsh at the heart of a language-driven form of worship. This is the only place where the Act confers justiciable rights. In Scotland which … Read more

Adams appeal against Long Kesh escape convictions fails…

Odd wee story this one. Former President of Sinn Fein has failed to overturn two former convictions for escape from internment on a technicality. [A lot of trouble just to avoid US Homeland security control checks on one time felons – Ed] As for the stories behind the convictions, pure boy’s own stuff, with a comic twist.. [Adams] was among hundreds of people held without trial during the early years of Northern Ireland’s Troubles. On Christmas Eve 1973, he was … Read more

What would yet send them over the top? Or is it all over?

  While Mick has presented the glass half full argument that Sinn Fein have at least indicated a willingness to return to Stormont, attention is bound to be more focused on hopes dashed or at least seriously  dampened . But there’s  no point in railing against Arlene Foster for  bursting out in public with a negative message against an  Irish Language Act (“however packaged”)  or speculating that   DUP supporters with  Jim Allister perched on their shoulder were  “spooked “ by … Read more

Wanted: NI artefacts and memorabilia from 1998 onwards

James Ashe is a final year Graphic Communication student at Norwich University of the Arts. He’s a freelance designer and photographer with an interest in brands, print and visual identity projects. This year is the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which changed the landscape of Northern Ireland. As I approach the conclusion of my studies in Norwich, I am putting together a book that is a reflection of growing up in post-conflict Northern Ireland. It’s entitled You Can’t … Read more

Most significant development of the week has been SF’s signal that they will return to Stormont..

Asked on Monday by a Scottish journalist what the British PM and the Irish Taoiseach coming to Stormont meant, I said it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve come over and nothing happened. The NIO has used such events in the past to try to trigger a deal. Last time was over the Welfare standoff when it failed to achieve the desired effect. The toxification of the Irish language means probably too early to tell when we’ll get an actual … Read more

This Valentine’s Day, which politician do you secretly admire?

A bit of fun for Valentine’s Day. For me I can’t help but be fascinated by Jacob Rees-Mogg, politically I would agree with practically none of his political views but in these days of bland middle of the road politicians, it is good to have someone who holds their ground no matter no matter how unfashionable their opinions. This Guardian profile of the “member for the eighteenth century” is a fascinating read, some extracts: In 1981, at the age of 12, … Read more

‘Cross Community Projects’ are Outdated in Today’s Northern Ireland

The concept of a polarisation of politics is one often talked about in today’s society, and in Brexit Britain and Trump’s America and so many other cases it is easy to see evidence of this polarisation. People follow different narratives that offer different (or alternative) facts and there is a demonised view of the motives of politicians that you do not agree with. In Northern Ireland polarisation of politics is nothing new to us, and it continues to this day … 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

Now we see who’s ‘red (white and blue) lines’ are holding up the show!

It’s becoming increasingly clear that unionist political parties and politicians have set their opposition to an Irish Language Act and, by extension, any form of an Irish identity within ‘British’ NI as a priority ‘red line’ ahead of returning to powersharing or, even, at the most fundamental level aspiring to an equal Union between NI and the rest of the UK. The rhetoric today from Arlene Foster in which she set out what she would not countenance in response to … Read more