Inventing the Myth on the Eleventh Night: Review of Connal Parr’s Book on Ulster Protestantism

“What is distinctive of political Protestantism – its Orange marches, its flute bands, its lodge banners, its sectarian songs – is taken to be the sum of all cultural life in that community.” – Prof Arthur Aughey, quoted in Connal Parr, p. 15, Inventing the Myth We are on the eve of the Twelfth – usually considered the height of Ulster Protestant-Unionist-Loyalist cultural expression. But Aughey’s words should give us pause for thought. Aughey is quoted in Connal Parr’s widely … Read more

Perspectives on Change from a Dublin-dwelling northern Prod

I am a Northern Irish Protestant who has lived in Dublin for the past twenty five years. I am proud to be from the Protestant community and proud to be from Northern Ireland. But I have never been so proud to be part of a society, as I have been to be part of the Republic of Ireland in recent years. A society that voted, myself included, in favour of marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose. I have a friend … Read more

The bogey of a hard border is starting to vanish before our eyes

Majority reaction to the Chequers summit is cautiously optimistic, most reservations from all but the Brexiteer fanatics being postponed, using the alibi  of next Thursday’s publication of the 120 page government White Paper before they fully respond.  If you’re naturally positive, you’ll see it as an undoubtedly soft Brexit;  if  you’re a cynic whether Leaver or Remainer, you may call it a fake Brexit. The outcome can be summed up by saying that on goods and regulations, the UK will … Read more

SOAPBOX: A Cry from the Heart

232 Presbyterian ministers and elders respond to decisions taken at June 2018’s General Assembly with a statement – ’A Cry from the Heart‘: As teaching and ruling elders in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, we acknowledge, and indeed share, the profound sense of hurt, dismay and anger currently being expressed in the wake of decisions taken at our 2018 General Assembly. This level of feeling is unprecedented in our pastoral experience …

The role of the block grant in the constitutional debate

Writing in the News Letter yesterday, Owen Polley makes the case for winning over the centre ground to the Union in an article which is surely a classic of the genre. Airily dismissing his own contribution to the debate as a commentator, he spends most of his article heaping scorn upon NI’s centre ground for openly considering the idea of constitutional change, and then goes onto scold Unionist politicians for their failure to win support for the status quo. Once … Read more

Talking reconciliation with SF over health reforms, but can the DUP walk the walk?

Some positive talk here from the DUP Leader Arlene Foster on the eve of the 70th birthday of the NHS… The NHS cannot afford to stand still, and here in Northern Ireland we have our own specific challenges. Though, we are fortunate in the Bengoa Report to have a roadmap that other jurisdictions don’t as yet, to an improved and sustainable service. Former DUP Health Ministers Edwin Poots and Simon Hamilton saw the need for transformation, established strong relationships with … Read more

Doctrine and Decline? Irish Churches and the Conservative Turn

This would be a very good time to train as a humanist celebrant in Ireland. Who else is going to marry and bury the queers and the Yes voters and those living in sin? It’s interesting that at a time when many ordinary Catholics and Protestants are developing more nuanced religious beliefs and practices, some in the institutional churches are careering the other way. Denying full membership. Refusing to baptise kids. Hoking around people’s facebook pages to decide if they’re … Read more

British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to meet on 25th July

Pleased to confirm a British Irish Intergovernmental Conference has been agreed between both Governments for 25th July, London. This is an important Good Friday Agreement structure for dialog and consultation and will have an agenda dealing with East/West and NI issues @rtenews — Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) June 28, 2018 The SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood welcomed the move; The Conference must agree on a package of legislation that will deliver on language issues and the reform of the Petition of Concern … Read more

As another crisis hits the EU, raging against the Brexiteers is not an adequate response.

Boats with EU, UK flags sailing in opposite directions

Try as I might I’m unable to understand the appeal of Brexit for the UK, never mind Ireland north or south. I say “understand “deliberately rather than “appreciate”, as it is possible to see where people are coming from even if you don’t join them on the journey. Therefore I’m often a humble passenger on Fintan O’Toole’s train of thought. The greatly admired Fintan is among the most sophisticated critics of Brexit on either island from the high vantage point … Read more

An Irish Border Poll – learning the lessons of Brexit

Demographic changes and some recent polls have injected an air of optimism, arguably even complacency into the campaign for Irish unity to the extent that its proponents regard it as inevitable within the medium-term. A quick review of the past two years in the United Kingdom however, offers a vivid example of how major constitutional change is not a simple matter, far from it. The problem began with a referendum, posing the simple question: Should the United Kingdom remain a … Read more

“almost in the space of trying to undermine confidence in the new Garda Commissioner…”

To Brian’s pointed question about Leo, Mary Lou and Drew, I’d add another. What does Mary Lou’s Dail offensive tell us about SF’s attitude to the new and fairly (as far as we can tell) appointed Garda Commissioner and the mechanism of the southern state? Like their attack on the Special Criminal in the week the Hutch-Kinihan feud began (ie, in the first week of the last southern General Election) it perhaps suggests the SF leader is bound to an … Read more

Drew Harris is the next Chief Commissioner of An Garda Siochana…

The Bel Tel reports… PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris has been appointed the new Garda Commissioner. The vacancy was created last September following the resignation of Noirin O’Sullivan. More details to follow… Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

Uniting Ireland means tackling the huge social debt generated by the Troubles before not after…

IThe uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process is driving what often comes across as feverish talk of a United Ireland. Make no mistake, Brexit (even a soft one) will change relations on and between these islands for good. But island unity is no foregone conclusion. In his column for the Irish Times week before last, Noel Whelan picked up the same United Ireland issue our Slugger panel will be discussing this Tuesday evening (still a few tickets left). He usefully puts his finger … Read more

“…on which Mr Hazzard in purporting to be offended by a long-standing informational map would do well to reflect.”

Or, catch yourself on!  From the Belfast Telegraph, the operator of the national railway network in Ireland, Iarnród Éireann, with a demonstration of how to respond to contrived mischief-making by a member of the UK parliament, in this case Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard, MP.  From the Belfast Telegraph report  A spokesman for Irish Rail said the company had worked “through good and bad times” to provide services between Northern Ireland and the Republic, including “the extraordinarily challenging era when sectarian … Read more

Review of Archbishop Eames’ Unfinished Search – Will Another Opportunity to Address the Past Slip through our Hands?

‘Despite attempts to revise or rewrite history, the complexities of the legacy of this period indicate, if nothing else, that to find a common ground for the future will be a more difficult task than bringing an end to violence. To win the peace in Northern Ireland is one thing. To make it last and to transform it into an accepted way of life is by far the greatest mountain to climb.’ — Archbishop Robin Eames, Unfinished Search, p. 136 Those … Read more

“Not allowing people to speak or vote according to their conscience goes totally against republicanism, because without freedom of conscience there isn’t any freedom”

Sinn Féin’s continued adherence to the practice of democratic centralism, even on an issue that most political parties regard as a matter of individual conscience, has seen the party’s vice-president on the attack [best form of defence – Ed], and the resignation of Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan [“disappointing but not surprising” – Ed].  Now the former Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly, who resigned from the party in February this year over its increasingly pro-choice position, and his wife, Anne … Read more

A warning to Leo from his base on his drift towards Mary Lou and Sinn Fein…

I didn’t get to share this piece from Sarah Carey in The Times, Ireland edition yesterday. It’s a stern warning to Leo Varadkar over his political flirtation with Mary Lou McDonald from a columnist from a committed FG family… The omens indicated something so preposterous and outlandish that I ignored them for too long, but no longer. Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Féin leader, says that she wants to form a coalition government with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Not on … Read more

The Union in Revolutionary Times

There may never be a United Ireland. But, equally, there could be one very soon. Historical inevitability is a fallacy best left to ageing Marxist university lecturers. So ubiquitous is forecasting the fate of Northern Ireland through the glacial process of demographic change, we forget that in revolutionary times, previously robust assumptions can crumble in a day. The night the Berlin Wall was accidentally opened, a panel discussion on West German TV discussed the stunning events of the previous hours … Read more

Happy Birthday NHS: What changes are necessary, and how might we make them?

Tonight’s Slugger event is highly focused on health policy, for which we make no apologies. One poor feature of devolution in Northern Ireland is its retreat from policy in favour of populism. However, this is also a wider feature of western democracy. About a year before the last but one UK general election, this animated conversation between Professor John Kay and Steve Richards illustrates the exact same casual (ie, uncosted) retreat taking place elsewhere: In Northern Ireland (as elsewhere), there … Read more