The shape of the final deal actually looks promising- if only we can get over the hump of the backstop. London now needs Dublin’s help to get there

 “Cosmetic and meaningless.” On behalf of the DUP, Nigel Dodds’ rejection of the government’s latest bunch of concessions and clarifications is entirely predictable. The legal text containing the backstop of the Ireland/ Northern Ireland Protocol has indeed not been changed as everybody knew it wouldn’t be and won’t be.  Many will shrug and say that’s that. But it’s nothing of the sort. If there’s to be any middle way between No Deal and No Brexit, it’s hard to see how … Read more

Building an Ireland of Communities

This week, we’re featuring submissions from readers on the theme of ‘Future Ireland: Alternative Conversations about Unity and the Union’. Competition winners will be published on Saturday. By T.R. Neill. Nationalism is an increasingly confident movement on the island of Ireland. As a nationalist myself, I see this as a good thing. However, I have always viewed nationalism’s challenge in the terms elucidated by John Hume, that we must not just remove the physical borders on this island but also … Read more

Why Include Ulster Protestants in a New Ireland?

This week, we’re featuring submissions from readers on the theme of ‘Future Ireland: Alternative Conversations about Unity and the Union’. Competition winners will be published on Saturday. By Dilcy, a nationalist living in Belfast. Why Include Ulster Protestants in a New Ireland? Answer 1 They’re here already and may as well stay. Answer 2 We say stay, but we really hope they will eventually leave. Answer 3 They are really Irish anyway. Answer 4 We really need their help to … Read more

The DUP are the crucial “dominoes” in May’s bid to win a second meaningful vote

Theresa May’s strategy to try to win MPs’ endorsement of the withdrawal agreement is a little clearer, arising out of hints she gave to Andrew Marr yesterday. The strategy  is classic if conventional  politics, before a fundamentally divided, incoherent opposition, however formidable it now seems. It involves  narrowing  the gaps, wearing down opposition by a mixture of  project Fear (miles of traffic jams and English police on Ulster streets ) and project Farce (the shipping company with no ships), and … Read more

Power to the People: Best Irish Podcasts of 2018

2018 has been a great year for alternative media in Ireland. The podcast scene, in particular, has provided an important anchor in a year of political turmoil. Beyond the spun headlines of rage and fury, simplistic panel set-ups for and against, the cat-fights of social media, podcasts have have created space for challenging conversations and depth of analysis. They have provided journalists with a platform to tackle difficult questions, given all kinds of activists a voice, brought historical depth to … Read more

Looking through the lens of history helps us ease the torments of Brexit

As a Christmas treat, let’s stand back from the tangles of Brexit and the backstop and take a broader look at how they’re complicating our fond old obsession with our choice of identities British, Irish and European. One of the leaders of the current debate is Fintan O’Toole  a torrentially eloquent writer who knows Britain as well as his own backyard. You’d be hard put to find an English equivalent writing about Ireland. What we see more of are endless voyages of … Read more

Driving home for Christmas? Be thankful

As I walked through Belfast City Centre a couple of Fridays ago I passed, scattered among the late-night revellers, five maybe six rough sleepers.  Some were out cold, some awake looking vacantly at the crowds and some taking the opportunity of the passing footfall to ask for spare change. Seeing rough sleepers in Belfast is nothing new, I recall them from my childhood too.  But it remains something that is hard to see and fathom, at this time of year … Read more

How will we Remember Martin McGuinness?: Review of David Latimer’s ‘A Leap of Faith’

A new book by Rev David Latimer, A Leap of Faith: How Martin McGuinness and I Worked Together for Peace, tells the story of the surprising but strong friendship between Latimer, the minister at First Derry Presbyterian Church, and the late Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin. It was a controversial friendship. There were those within Latimer’s own congregation, the wider Presbyterian Church, and unionism more generally who found it difficult to contemplate his close ties with a former IRA commander. … Read more

May’s desperate tactics are unworthy and will fail to give her victory

Tactically Theresa May is being astute. But then she has always run Brexit as a party strategy.  Strategically in the national interest, she’s risking a disaster. By continuing to face MPs with a binary choice as late as mid January – My Deal or No Deal – she’s squeezing the time available for any Plan Bs to emerge but she’s raised her immediate chances of staying in office.  This of course assumes the divided cabinet will play along and the … Read more

“I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” Theresa May in Brussels? Answer. Worse: humiliation

What was Theresa May actually expecting  from the EU 27 leaders in Brussels? There was always the desperate hope for one of those last minute rush to settle against the declared odds. Instead… headlines… Daily Telegraph ( Brexiteer) Theresa May was humiliated once again by EU leaders last night as her attempts to improve her Brexit deal were thrown back in her face. The Sun (Brexiteer) and coiner of  dreadful puns BRUSSELS ROUT  Theresa May told to get stuffed by … Read more

Keep your eye on the glimmer of light in the Big Picture. But first we need to re-examine the backstop, sooner rather than later.

Although the sight of it is darkly occluded, the shape of things to come is emerging through the fog. Whatever immediate  political strategy  Theresa May chooses today, the dream of the hard line Brexiteers is in process of disintegration.  Whatever the political turmoil today, the UK will retain some sort of close relationship with the EU.   In Northern Ireland, unionists will have a closer relationship with the Republic and with nationalists generally – and I would argue with only slightly … Read more

The DUP would be fools to vote for no confidence in the government and boost the chances of a No Deal default

Politics is in a vortex of fast moving events over which the government has little control. According to the likely scenario, Theresa May will lose the meaningful vote badly next Tuesday night.  What happens next is in uncharted waters. But this is how  the meaningful vote fits into the prescribed  timetable, courtesy of the FT: The vote is a legal obligation under the UK’s 2018 EU Withdrawal Act, which says such a vote must take place “before the European Parliament decides whether … Read more

‘A New Ireland: a ten year plan?’ Book launch…

‘A New Ireland: a ten year plan?’ is being launched at events in Dublin and Belfast tomorrow (7th December). The book considers the prospect for Irish reunification in the context of the impact of Brexit and demographic changes in Northern Ireland, alongside the economic strength and increasing social liberalism of the Irish Republic.  Things are changing in Ireland, north and south. But the problems associated with the Brexit referendum result demonstrate the danger of having a yes/no vote without considering … Read more

A riposte to David McWilliams

Out of interest… It was surprising that the Financial Times should publish a long triumphalist critique of Northern Ireland by the economist David McWilliams without comment from other economists (“ The final frontier”, Life & Arts, December 1). Mr McWilliams claims that most people in Northern Ireland want to stay in the EU. It is true that 56 per cent voted for the UK to remain in the EU. He echoes Sinn Féin in claiming that this meant many unionists … Read more

If demographics is destiny, it’s up to us to decide the sort of destiny we want

I was intrigued by my friend David McWilliams’ warm and typically human account of Northern Ireland’s constitutional prospects in the FT. David has always had an abiding commitment to exploring the possibilities and the advantages of a single polity living on our island. In the naughties, he invited me to speak on a panel on his RTE show, which looked at the prospects of a united Ireland. On the bus down I rang one of my oldest small ‘u’ unionist mates … Read more

Game of chicken is hotting up

Brexit tensions are rising towards fever pitch. The Times story puts it neatly : If you step back from the noise surrounding Theresa May’s struggle to get her deal through parliament there are really only four Brexit options left on the table: Mrs May’s deal (possibly tweaked); no deal; a second referendum; and a Norway-style soft Brexit. Each option has its advocates in the Commons but none yet has enough backing to command majority support in the House. Ultimately MPs … Read more

Fr Gerry Reynolds’ Anniversary & his 1994 Sermon on Forgiveness after the Ceasefires

I am writing a biography of Fr Gerry Reynolds, a Redemptorist who served 32 years in Belfast’s Clonard Monastery. His ministry encompassed some of the most difficult days of the Troubles; and he dedicated himself to praying and working for an end to the violence. So I am perhaps more aware than most that today is the third anniversary of his death. I also am aware that while I began the biography a few months before he died, it is … Read more

Northern Ireland’s business community has united as never before to make sure it is heard and the consequences of crashing out of the EU next March are understood.

Stephen Kelly is the Chief Executive of Manufacturing NI, he writes for Slugger about why the Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union should be supported. A community has found it voice. Reluctant, yet determined, Northern Ireland’s business community has united as never before, to make sure is heard, and that the consequences of crashing out of the EU next March are understood. Some may have been frustrated that Northern Ireland’s businesses and their representatives have been too quiet, but we … Read more

Why Brexit is going wrong and how it could be fixed (part 2)

This is the second of two posts here looking at Brexit through a democratic, rather than a political lens. In the previous post, I argued that the ‘cliff edge’ exit that is inevitable when leaving the EU is not sustainable for the EU, and that the UK would be doing everyone a favour by challenging it. The word “crisis” is over-used in British politics, but we are undoubtedly in one now. We have a Prime Minister who is trying to … Read more