Do we still have “a dirty peace” in which investigation of child rape was seemingly deferred to the IRA?

“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman”, said associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Louis Dembitz Brandeis. In the case of Mairia Cahill, it is Cahill (not any organ of the state) who has forced an extraordinary story out of a close-mouthed system with horrendous import for wider society, of a rape victim who fell foul of the wrong people in the … Read more

New November “deadline” for agreeing withdrawal terms puts pressure on all sides

The mantra “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” may be joined  with a new one, “ nothing changes until everything changes.” This  applies in spades to the border backstop wrangle. Rather than face crunch point at Salzburg on Thursday, EU leaders have confirmed that the terms for UK withdrawal will be settled at a special Brexit summit in November. So that’s all good, then. But the backstop still nags and Theresa May has said nothing to wish it away, … Read more

It’s not an apology Ms Cahill needs, but an explanation of how such a cover-up was managed…

The Mairia Cahill story is back. The Ombudsman report like the Starmer report before identifies significant failings on the part of the state in bringing an IRA member suspected of gross criminal behaviour before the courts. The Ombudsman has uncovered intelligence that Sinn Fein suspended the abuser in August 2000. The party first became aware of the abuse was in 1997 – while it was still onoing. His expulsion only came in 2000, when police records reveal the IRA was investigating child … Read more

Fianna Fáil and its discontents – the Eurosceptic opportunity

By Aidan Harkin At the time of writing Fianna Fáil (FF) is struggling to re-assert itself as the prominent force in Irish politics. The 2016 election was a moment of promise for FF who experienced considerable gains from its disastrous 2011 election performance, resulting in a difference of only six seats between them and the governing party Fine Gael (FG). This rise coupled with the implosion of the Irish labour party has meant both FF and FG now co-exist uncomfortably … Read more

The burning border problem. Is it a gnat or a camel?

Only two things  are sure about the Brexit arguments.  Over the border issue ’they’re hotting up inside the Conservative party. And the binary nature of the exchanges between Theresa and Boris produces only deadlock as binary arguments tend to do. In her BBC interview no doubt she believes she’s defending “the precious, precious Union” and the will of the Northern Ireland people. But as interviewer Nick Robinson might have reminded  her, they voted in favour of Remain. Does it really … Read more

Union vs United Ireland Declared a Draw! What Happens Next?

In these increasingly dramatic, uncertain and downright bizarre political times, one suitably off-the-wall scenario is good fun to imagine: what if London and Dublin stepped in and gave the dysfunctional Stormont 12 months to reach a permanent solution to the constitution and identity debate. Otherwise – sick of policing the NI naughty step – they’d step in with final rulings of their own. So, the parties would be warned that this post-deadline decision by the two governments would – intentionally … Read more

Liadh Ní Riada announced as Sinn Fein presidential candidate

MEP Liadh Ní Riada has been announced as the party candidate for the upcoming presidential election. Speaking about her nomination she said; My personal background has given me a deep appreciation of Ireland’s unique identity and culture, its place in the wider world and a strong commitment to a United Ireland. “I grew up in west Cork, an area with a proud republican history. I was raised in the Gaeltacht in an Irish speaking family and as the daughter of … Read more

Future Ireland: Writing Competition

This is an open call for submissions on our current featured topic – Future Ireland: Alternative Conversations about Unity and the Union You can read a little more about the aims of the project here, and the types of contributions that we’re seeking. Here’s an example. But we suspect that you might have some even better ideas. So we’re putting out an open call for articles on this topic.  The best three articles will win a prize (tbc – don’t … Read more

Future Ireland: Alternative Conversations About Unity and the Union

The future of Northern Ireland is deeply uncertain. Brexit, the rise of English nationalism, Scotland, Stormont deadlock and demographic change make Irish unity a realistic alternative. The polls vary greatly, but some have unity very much within sight, especially if there is a harsh Brexit and a disruptive border. People are talking about this at kitchen tables across the north. But whilst we are highly engaged about if we would like unity or the union, and many of us have … Read more

“Not only did they not tell the public that they allowed a child sex abuser to remain in the party…”

So the Ombudsman has delivered his latest report (or letter) to Mairia Cahill, not simply on the deficiencies of, first the RUC and secondly the PSNI in handling her case, but some damning news for Sinn Fein too. The BBC reports: …the RUC, Northern Ireland’s police force before the PSNI was formed in 2001, had information about allegations of child abuse by an IRA member 10 years before the complaints were made but failed to act. He also found that there … Read more

Brexiteer border plan is not a game changer, nor a government wrecker for the DUP

Will Arlene Foster proclaim the merits of the Brexiteer European Research Group’s plan for the border when she meets Theresa May?  She will come under immediate pressure to give her verdict – for or against the Chequers plan on which May refuses to compromise; or in favour of the ERG’s? Nigel Dodds has declared the plan which is rival to the prime minister’s plan “positive and timely.” But is this an implied  threat to withdraw support from the government? It … Read more

Micheál Martin: “the core of nationalism is to secure a unity of people and not just a unity of structures…”

In his recently published book, my old Slugger partner in crime Paul Evans describes the rise in the populism as a  form of anti-utilitarianism in which political gaming is gradually crowding out representative democracy. Whilst keen not to paint Brexit or the election of Trump as civilisation’s end, he highlights the capacity for hidden interests to manipulate any electorate through dark money and by sending radically different political messages even to people living under the same roof is rising. The resulting squeezing of … Read more

The EU may shoot Boris’s fox and bail Theresa out

The FT  has discovered a blink of light for Theresa May  amid the general Brexit gloom.  The Daily Telegraph is among other papers  lifting the story, labelling it, “Operation Save Theresa.”        The EU is preparing to give its Brexit negotiator new instructions to help close a deal with Britain, in a conciliatory move that will bolster Theresa May as she suffers savage attacks from Brexiters at home. An informal summit in Salzburg this month between the EU’s … Read more

When oh when will the UK government stop stalling on the backstop?

Why  is  Michel Barnier being messed about over the backstop and the border? On Tuesday he said this to the Commons Brexit  Select Committee. I am very concerned about Ireland. We need to find a solution that avoids the return of a hard border and that remains today the main obstacle on our road to an agreement between the British and ourselves. On the ground, ladies and gentlemen, it is impossible—this is nothing new—to distinguish between customs checks and other … Read more

The time has come for the next Assembly to vote on a border poll

In a brave attempt to discuss a border poll dispassionately, Newton Emerson is tentatively suggesting that it might be a good idea to hold a sort of test poll outside the terms of the GFA “to clear the air.” Unfortunately his analysis is better than his prescription, as a poll of any sort  under official sponsorship, even one declared in some way not to count,  would  inevitably still stimulate  the  seven year itch  among nationalists he rightly identifies , to … Read more

From the London broadsheets, rare interest in Irish developing positions is to be welcomed

The criticism  is well made that  British  interest in Irish positions is generally self serving and fails to recognise their independent validity. Any slight shift in this is to be welcomed. The London broadsheets  have paid Sinn Fein the rare compliment of taking seriously the party’s think-in at Cavan. It’s worth noting that they have yet to broach the notion that a  Brexit solution would  be so much easier if Northern Ireland were to join the Republic.  Quite apart from … Read more

The arrest of two journalists is a symptom of a bankrupt system for dealing with the Troubles legacy, with no solution in sight

The arrest and interrogation of two journalists  suspected of stealing documents  in connection  with  the making the film documentary No Stone Unturned on the Loughinisland murders, is a perfect example of how the current handing of the Troubles legacy is deeply unsatisfactory. In the present vacuum, the PSNI, which still retains  front-line legacy responsibilities,  seems to feel bound  to  be seen doing something, even in cases where they look self interested, counterproductive and downright foolish.  On the face of it … Read more

Future Ireland: Where Can The North Thrive?

For some masochistic reason, I feel umbilically connected to the soil and the soul of this island. Especially this messed up northern corner of it. But there is no point in drawing borders in the soil, and driving flags into it, when it only has 60 more years of harvests left to give. It occurred to me recently that the best case scenario for Northern Ireland, as things stand, is to have a mediocre Brexit, for Stormont to limp back, for orange … Read more

Brexit crisis point is arriving even faster than expected

At the opening of the Westminster season, no time has been wasted for open warfare to break out inside the Conservative party.  Theresa May’s Chequers plan is assailed from both left and right, in the old terms, between Leave and Remain.  Its main thrust – separating the authority  to lay down rules for goods from regulations for services –   is now specifically rejected by Brussels. Crying wolf is easy but this looks really serious.  Boris slaps down his challenge in … Read more

The Pope’s visit revealed a Church at war between left and right and over the authority of the Pope. The result is deadlock

Two characteristics of the papacy of Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerged more clearly as a result of his brief visit to Ireland, neither of them encouraging. One was the local hierarchy’s relative powerlessness to influence what went on. Over the dashed hopes that he might come North, they talked like onlookers in the crowd. This goes flatly against all I ever assumed about the pledges of collegiality with local bishops after Vatican 2. The second is the relative powerless of the … Read more