Latest wheeze – Northern Ireland to become a joint EU/UK economic area with a 10 mile buffer on the border

 Sun Exclusive! Special economic zone could be useful for dairy farmers and allow for trade on the border. David Davis praises ‘constructive’ talks with Michel Barnier in London The Brexit Secretary is also drawing up a 10 mile-wide buffer zone the length of Northern Ireland’s 310 mile border with Ireland. Dubbed a ‘special economic zone’, it will be for local traders such as dairy farmers – who make up 90 per cent of the cross border traffic – and share the … Read more

Did you miss Nationalism’s lightening fast “narrative re-alignment” on abortion?

That burning you can smell is the whiff of brakes being heavily applied and policy getting a rapid on the track change. Newton has a good piece on the Irish Times which gives a rundown on the policy positions prior to and through last Friday. He starts with this report from 1983, a young Arlene Foster: It’s been generally read that young Arlene was in favour of abortion at the time. Personally, I’ve no idea if she was but I’m pretty … Read more

Supreme Court ruling on abortion a week today. Time to get off the back foot, Arlene

The Supreme Court has announced that its decision on Northern Ireland  abortion laws will be handed down a week today. It couldn’t  come soon enough for the PSNI  who had to handle a demo outside Laganside Courthouse when some women  were said to have taken abortion pills. Just one other reflection. The ubiquitous Alex Kane commends the smattering of self criticism in Arlene Foster’s  state of the Union speech in London last week. But he asks:  Is too late? Have … Read more

500 days without a government – Do we really care?

Today marks 500 days without a government in Northern Ireland. There is a handy website that tracks the days. We only have 89 days to go till we beat the Belgium record (we can do it!). I suspect I am not the only one who could not give a monkies. There are no massive public protests, more a collective shrug of the shoulders. Personally, I am enjoying the quiet. What is interesting is even without a government, life rumbles on … Read more

Free Event. Happy Birthday NHS? What is the future of health and social care? – Tuesday 19th June 2018.

This year the NHS turns 70 and the health service in Northern Ireland is under immense pressure. Already health takes over 50% of all Stormont expenditure and that figure is growing all the time. With an ageing population as well as the increase in conditions like obesity, diabetes and dementia, the demands keep growing. Join our expert panel for a debate on the future of Health in Northern Ireland. The panel includes: Dr George O’Neill – local GP and well … Read more

Eight lessons for democracy from the Eighth (however you voted) …

There’s so much to unpack from the Repeal referendum that it’s hard to do them justice in one (shortish) blog. But, hey, here goes. The “boring bits” of democracy really matter. Repeal arose from a deliberative process amongst a randomly chosen set of citizens. Largely private, it allowed space for a range of opinions in a permissive, non-confrontational space, far removed the increasingly normative Twitter “Diss Course” that’s so popular with the political media. It revealed the same 2/3 support as the … Read more

Social progress is an important part of ensuring the Union is a more attractive proposition…

While I personally do not support abortion, I do support a woman’s right to have one if she chooses. I think it would be wrong for anyone to think that the referendum held in Ireland to repeal the 8th amendment will not have an effect in Northern Ireland. Of course, it will in the same way the decision to allow women from Northern Ireland to access abortions on the NHS England had an effect. I sometimes sense that some believe … Read more

Senior Conservatives are willing to defy the DUP over abortion

Perhaps the abortion issue is emerging as a new category which breaks the  rules of  conventional political wisdom.  As far as Westminster is concerned, It seems the last word has not been spoken by Theresa May. This is a devolved matter. Our focus is restoring a democratically accountable devolved government in Northern Ireland so that locally accountable politicians can make decisions on behalf of the public they represent.” It is not only Stella Creasy and mainly Labour colleagues that are … Read more

The DUP/Loyalist flag protocol is another sign of hostility to ‘The Others’

The DUP and loyalists have announced that they have agreed a new flags protocol for the flying of loyalist flags in the mixed residential area of Ballynafeigh. They have decided, between themselves, that their flags will be flown from lamp posts in these mixed residential areas for a quarter of the year, going up and being taken down on dates that they have independently determined for the benefit of all else residing in these mixed areas. Proclaiming the good news … Read more

I don’t want a shared future, I want a shared now

You know summer is on the way in Northern Ireland, when we get 3 straight days of sunshine, prompting an outbreak of ‘taps aff’. Anyone unfortunate to witness the sight of some local men wandering the streets half naked, knows that a row about flags is just around the corner. A few weeks ago, just off the Ravenhill Road, a part of the world I call my home, four loyalist paramilitary flags went up on lampposts overnight, near a shared … Read more

Do Labour MP Stella Creasy and friends have the knowledge and stamina to progress abortion reform against the odds?

You thought it had gone quiet? Not if Stella Creasy can help it.  Repealing the nineteenth century Act which ultimately banned abortion and is still on the statute book, would be a route to broadening the scope of abortion regulations in Northern Ireland. So claims Ms Creasy the Labour MP who is championing the cause at Westminster. She has set out her stall not only in the Times but the Guardian. The repeal of the 1861 Offences against the Person … Read more

The direct Westminster route to abortion reform is not the one to follow. It’s time for civil society to step up to the plate

Northern Ireland as a place apart over abortion rights has exposed many English MPs to the complexities of devolution for the first time over something they care about deeply, so much so that they seemed at first to dismiss them altogether. There is a precedent of a kind.  On Brexit Westminster is ignoring the SNP government’s refusal to assent to the terms of EU withdrawal on the grounds that this is a reserved matter for Westminster. Although  abortion rights are … Read more

Simple reform of the Petititon of Concern will facilitate movement on abortion in Northern Ireland

Regular readers of Slugger will know that I’m a firm resister of that favourite liberal reflex, so destructively pervasive in Northern Ireland, which is to blame the DUP for every little thing that goes wrong (including, most implausibly) the breakdown of Stormont. Nor do I criticise politicians for standing up for their own conscience and moral convictions when it comes to something as complex and perplexing as abortion. The trite, hectoring tone in parts of the southern media for TDs … Read more

After the huge majority in the Republic, all is changed utterly in the North. The Union is more at stake than ever

The scale of the verdict in the Article 8 referendum will create a new surge and a new context in Northern Ireland politics.  While it would be an exaggeration to say that it might even sweep away the entire unionist position if it does not radically change, even that is not inconceivable, if added to the impact of a hard Brexit. NI abortion reform and the risk to the UK government While all bets are off, it would be unwise … Read more

Soapbox: Connal Parr on Mythmaking, Identity and Ulster Protestant Cultures

Dr Connal Parr is Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in the Humanities at Northumbria University. His research emphasises the interconnectedness of history, politics, and culture. His book ‘Inventing the Myth’ viewed local political developments and recent history through the prism of dramatists and writers and was inspired by his doctoral research. On the evening of Tuesday 22 May, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs generously sponsored an event on the themes of my book Inventing the Myth: Political Passions and the … Read more

Is it too soon to refer to Ireland as “Secular Ireland”?

We’ve often heard Ireland referred to as “Catholic Ireland” or “Conservative Ireland”, is it time those terms were replaced with “Secular Ireland”? The partition of Ireland caused the creation of two states ruled by unaccountable religious fundamentalists of different creeds. The events of the last few days may have ensured the destruction of one of them, but there’s still work to do. A new Ireland is coming. Ireland is still reeling from the result of the most divisive referendum in … Read more

Brexit and the fantasy outcomes it engenders may not be real, but real change is going to come…

So, as Brian points out, Jeremy Corbyn seems to have disappointed a lot of unionist politicians by not really giving them much to go on re the seemingly promised promotion of a United Ireland. This is a short video introduction to a piece I had published in the Guardian on Friday, discussing why the ambiguities introduced by the prolonged Article 50 negotiation process would not in themselves deliver either a border poll or a united Ireland.  

66.4% vote to Repeal the 8th – The North is next

Ireland was “Shocked, stunned, surprised” at the “unexpected” result of the referendum. Not perhaps by the fact that the Yes camp won but by the margin. There was no doubt before this campaign began that a majority of people wanted to see the eighth amendment repealed. What created uncertainty about the outcome was whether the public would show some reluctance through the ballot box due to the government proposal to allow abortion to be freely available up to 12 weeks. … Read more