Peter Robinson speaks to Nolan about Jim Wells comments

Just a quick catch up on this story; Mr Wells accused party leader Arlene Foster of not standing by him. “Peter Robinson made the commitment that I would return,” the South Down MLA said. “Then Arlene took over as leader and Arlene, as leader of the party officers, ignored my two written requests for that commitment to be honoured,” he added. Former DUP Leader Peter Robinson spoke to Nolan today about the topic which is worth a listen and analysis … Read more

Political ferment is reflected in the GFA junketings, but no sign of a breakthrough

Will the DUP and Sinn Fein pay any attention to the eloquent pleas of the elder statesmen to return to the Executive?  On the surface the answer appears to be no, unless something is going on behind the scenes we don’t know about. Local politics suffers from elder statesperson fatigue. This generation has learned how to take in their stride the high sounding generalities from popes, presidents and prime ministers past and present.  The shock of the new wore off … Read more

Happy birthday Agreement. May you be brought back to health and may you take us all on the road to peace and reconciliation once again…

Twenty years ago this month my wife and I had a child- our first child. As all parents are, we were absolutely jubilant at the birth of our son. Wow! We had created this wonderful, if fragile, thing together! We adored (and still adore) him. A year or so later, I got a call to my work to say that my son was ill. He had a tummy bug and was vomiting. I was asked to come and get him … Read more

Ireland and slavery, then and now, free event…

We know that Ireland like most countries in Western Europe got caught up in the 18th-century slave trade and Irish merchants could benefit from the produce of the West Indies. Belfast was not exempt. The wealthy businessman Waddell Cunningham had a plantation in the Caribbean (called Belfast !) to take just one example. However there was a formidable opposition to slavery among the citizens of the growing late-18th century town, often involving radically-minded women – and a welcome was given … Read more

Clinton: “Keep the cranes up. Keep the voices free. Keep the votes fair. You’ll figure it out.” #GFA20

Political leaders of old and today gathered at Queen’s University, Belfast for a day of events focussed on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said that people “should realise that this agreement was never going to support all the problems of Northern Ireland” while former US President Bill Clinton had a triptych of advice for NI: “Keep the cranes up. Keep the voices free. Keep the votes fair. You’ll figure it out.”

Post Conference Retreat

Dominic O’Reilly is a SDLP Member and attended the party’s recent conference I am a mess of contradictions! Some years ago I took the decision to join a political party. Meanwhile for the last fifteen years I have been actively involved in youth ministry within the Church. To the extent that some eight years ago I entered studies for the diocesan priesthood. While I did not see this through to completion it was an incredibly fruitful time and period of … Read more

“I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border…”

Played up is right.  Labour Party front bencher, the shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, a former NIO minister, has apologised for “informal remarks in a meeting last month“, in particular, that his “use of the word ‘shibboleth’ in its sense of ‘password’ or ‘test of membership’ gave the impression that I thought the Good Friday Agreement was in any way outdated or unimportant. I absolutely do not.”  Which is fine.  But his recorded comments, last month, during a Q&A session after a speech … Read more

A Further Shore (Lyric Theatre) #GFA20

A nuanced and at times moving medley of spoken word and song remembrance of past times, incidents and ways of living during the Troubles, gradually working up to the negotiations and the 1998 Agreement. Not so balanced to become boring, but carefully seeded with surprise and honesty in the many perspectives it opened up.

Coming to terms with our interdependencies #GFA20

On the 20th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, it is easy to neglect the peace process that preceded it. My reference point is the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, because I learned about the efforts of then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald the year before, from a magazine article that I read in a local library in my rural hometown in Ohio. I knew then that what he was working on was important.

A noble illusion perhaps, but unity and reconciliation are not compatible

Writing in the Irish Times, Robin Wilson has eloquently identified “a cosmopolitan vista of “unification as reconciliation” among diverse individuals on the island…. as the current Tory government disappears down the Brexit rabbit hole”. Amid fears of a renewed, Brexit-induced hard Border, a plebiscite would be a blunt-instrument (and one-sided) response – less discussion, more sectarian headcount. A more sophisticated approach, less likely to lead to highly unwelcome consequences, would be to redefine the process of north-south co-operation recognised by … Read more

Achievements in Sport, Art, Drama – all in one day’s news about Northern Ireland!

I still have the exile’s old habit  of  registering  references in the News to home that lift the spirits rather than embarrass the hell out of me. Today must be a some kind of record. It may be parochial but it’s very gratifying. If there really is such a thing, it must be good for the image. Although it was a painful watch on TV it was obvious that the Augusta crowd loved Rory as much for his vulnerability as … Read more

Ode to Mr Lehrer

Good morning! This is a new departure for me, as it’s the first time I’ve ever contributed a poem to these pages. I don’t know how often poetry appears in Slugger, but if it’s not very often I guess this probably won’t be damaging to anyone or anything – except possibly my own reputation…. Anyway, today is the 90th Birthday of one of America’s finest satirists – a musician who began his life as a lecturer of mathematics at Harvard … Read more

Trimble rains on the GFA parade with supposed threat from loyalist paramiltaries over Brexit terms

Steve Punter's profile photo of David Trimble

David Trimble has many qualities but spreading sweetness and light is not prominent among them.   He has pricked the bubble of the GFA commemorations with a sinister warning. The one thing that would provoke loyalist paramilitaries is the present Irish government saying silly things about the border and the constitutional issue. If it looks as though the constitutional arrangements of the agreement, based on the principle of consent, are going to be superseded by so-called ‘special EU status’ then that … Read more

There is nothing republican about tying identity to a tricolour

“This decision will put back community relations…people are telling me their culture is being eroded, people are angry!” While this quote is reminiscent of the infamous flag protests of 2012, the main result of which being the increase in Jamie Bryson’s Twitter followers, the above comments are actually only weeks old and refer to a Councillor’s response to rumours that a Strabane St. Patrick’s Day parade would not allow the Irish tricolour to be flown. While Derry and Strabane District … Read more