“The relationship between the two governments hasn’t been everything it should have been…”

  Cue Arlene saying it is all over, “in our view, there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an executive being formed”. Her Majesty’s government, “to set a budget and start making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals and infrastructure”. As the UUP leader pointedly noted Tuesday, the no deal came after 402 days of deadlock. From what I can figure, the idea for three interlocking acts came from a senior civil servant, possibly the same one … Read more

London and Dublin must clear their lines for close cooperation on direct rule

Clarity rather than coyness is now needed over moves toward direct rule. Working on its  scope and duration is one more compelling reason for London and Dublin  to stick together.  On Monday at the otherwise disastrous Stormont meeting, Theresa May and Leo Varadkar pledged “to work together on a new plan on how to achieve a frictionless Irish border.” Good luck to them with that. On the continuing local stand-off, two elements are essential. Enough action must be taken to … Read more

Next time, the governments must not leave it entirely to the DUP and Sinn Fein in secret

It would have been a remarkable feat if the DUP and Sinn Fein could have  struck a deal  in secret, alone and unaided.  Secrecy may be essential for last moves to reach a compromise. But over a year none of the ground had been prepared with the public and it showed. The background was too noisy – RHI, the sudden illness and death of McGuinness, minority governments in London and Dublin with other fish to fry, including monumentally,  the throwback … Read more

What would yet send them over the top? Or is it all over?

  While Mick has presented the glass half full argument that Sinn Fein have at least indicated a willingness to return to Stormont, attention is bound to be more focused on hopes dashed or at least seriously  dampened . But there’s  no point in railing against Arlene Foster for  bursting out in public with a negative message against an  Irish Language Act (“however packaged”)  or speculating that   DUP supporters with  Jim Allister perched on their shoulder were  “spooked “ by … Read more

Now we see who’s ‘red (white and blue) lines’ are holding up the show!

It’s becoming increasingly clear that unionist political parties and politicians have set their opposition to an Irish Language Act and, by extension, any form of an Irish identity within ‘British’ NI as a priority ‘red line’ ahead of returning to powersharing or, even, at the most fundamental level aspiring to an equal Union between NI and the rest of the UK. The rhetoric today from Arlene Foster in which she set out what she would not countenance in response to … Read more

Sceptical, not cynical about “the long drawn out attempt to breathe life back into the Stormont arrangement”

Whilst on Saturday Brian highlighted the question of “the prospect of Sinn Fein’s return to Stormont as Mr Adams’ parting gift”, today Ed Moloney posits another, equally plausible scenario… You know, a cynic might suspect that the whole thing, at least the long drawn out attempt to breathe life back into the Stormont arrangement, was staged or timed so that the breakthrough would happen just when Sinn Fein want to present a new, Adams-free image to the electorate down South, one … Read more

Two Irelands, One Planet: Thinking Like an Eco-System Can Help Bind New Executive

While the North continues to languish as one of Western Europe’s ecological backwaters a gap has begun to open up with the Republic of Ireland when it comes to policy innovation. Two recent developments may prove to be tipping points in legislating for climate justice and environmental rights in Dublin. The most recent came just last week in the Oireachtas with the successful passage to Committee Stage of an opposition-sponsored initiative, the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) Climate Emergency Measures … Read more

A new dawn for Sinn Féin?

The appointment of Mary Lou McDonald marks a new dawn for Sinn Féin. The baton passed on to a new generation. She received as smooth a transition as one can get in politics from her predecessor Gerry Adams. However there were never really any clear competitors to Sinn Féin’s strongest performer in the Dáil who also has a common touch that is a necessary requisite of any highly successful politician. McDonald topped the poll in the Dublin Central constituency in the … Read more

Mary Lou McDonald looks forward to working with the DUP and promises no return to the status quo at Stormont

Sinn Féin’s new party president, Uachtarán Shinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald paid tribute to her friend and mentor Gerry Adams and spoke of a desire to double the size of the party while changing how it operates. She also spoke about looking forward to working with the DUP and promised that there would be no return to the status quo at Stormont.

Michelle O’Neill predicts talks will conclude next week and calls for party cohesion

In her acceptance speech as the incoming vice president of Sinn Féin – Leas Uachtarán Shinn Féin – Michelle O’Neill anticipated that the “[Stprmont] talks will conclude next week” and “the issues which caused the collapse of Stormont can be resolved with political will and mutual respect”. Later she called for “cohesion” in the expanding party.

Could the DUP handle the return to Stormont as Gerry Adams’ parting gift?

The  papers are at one in running  the story that a Stormont deal may be imminent next week. But  “with more work to be done” the emphasis ranges from glass half full to glass half empty. The Irish News headlines “ speculation quelled as differences remain ” while  Suzanne Breen now bylined as the paper’s  political editor, sticks her neck out  with the quote from “sources” that, “we may not have an agreement within hours but we are potentially on the … Read more

Unionists remember, the Belfast Agreement IS an ‘agreed Ireland’?

When will a unionist stand up for the Good Friday Agreement in response to what appears to be a creeping rejection of it by nationalists north and south? The refusal of Sinn Fein, spurred on by the nationalist electorate, to form an Executive and thus allow the Assembly to function, is a rejection of the Agreement. And the reasons given for the refusal are matters beyond the Good Friday Agreement, There is no provision in the Agreement for an Irish … Read more

Irish citizenship may open the door to an extended role for Dublin and Brussels in the North after Brexit

Brian WalkerFormer BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

On the border, a cabinet split emerges and UK-Irish tensions are renewed, as negative impact assessments of Brexit options are published in full

Northern Ireland comes out third  worst in the full version of regional assessments by HM Treasury of the impact of Brexit region by region. These were leaked to Buzzfeed last week then issued confidentially  to MPs and now published by  the BBC. The assessments, discounted by Brexiteers as failing properly  to model their preferred option of a free trade deal, emerged in full as tensions rose once again over the implications for the   border both within the British cabinet and … Read more

Rising expectations? The minority parties should put them to the test tomorrow

“I’m frustrated too, “ Karen Bradley told MPs. “The negotiations are at a very  sensitive stage.. very detailed and intense.. I’ve committed to not giving a running commentary .. I’m  not going to say anything that would jeopardise the talks.. They will last weeks, not months.. She was echoing the Taoiseach in the Dail yesterday, telling TDs : … he did not want to say anything that might cause offence to anyone at such a crucial juncture in the process … Read more

A mockery of a negotiation so far

So “huge differences remain” if you’re the DUP  but “good progress” was made if you’re a novice British minister  reading off the pre-prepared NIO script. What else don’t we know that the political correspondents can’t be bothered to say? The role of the chair is unknown – co-chairs, facilitators or dynamic leaders with a cunning plan ready to view? “We do not negotiate in public” said Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy last week as if for all the world this was … Read more

The border fudge ” will not survive”

Michel Barnier’s warning that  trade barriers are “ unavoidable” if Britain leaves the single market and the customs union has been reinforced by EU briefings that  December’s  fudge on Irish border options will be difficult to  sustain. The Irish Times report puts it gently. EU and British officials are working to translate December’s political agreement – which includes guarantees from the British government that there would be no return to a hard border in Ireland – into a legal text … Read more

“I first went to the party in Feb 2014 over this bullying and have consistently done so to try and get it stopped.”

So, as we know, there’s been a steady stream of southern SF councillors leaving the party. The latest to go is North Dublin Cllr Noeleen Reilly, this is the one most likely to do serious damage, who announced her exit of. We knew something was wrong when the local SF TD, Dessie Ellis, publicly threatened to sue the Ballymun Tidy Towns Committee over what he alleged at the time was… …a completely false allegation was made against him at the meeting … Read more

‘On behalf of churches, let me say sorry for the times we said to victims, “you must forgive.”’ – Rev Karen Sutheraman at the 4 Corners Festival

The 4 Corners Festival hosted a discussion last night about why churches have not done enough to promote peacebuilding and reconciliation since the Belfast Agreement – and what Christians can do to change that. During the question and answer part of the evening, Alan McBride, whose wife was killed in the Shankill bomb, asked a question about forgiveness. Rev Karen Sutheraman, pastor of the Down Community, responded in this way: ‘On behalf of churches, let me say sorry for the … Read more

Repeal of the 8th isn’t Roe vs Wade but a legislative fudge could help critics paint it that way.

Gerald Howlin makes a number of perceptive points about the potential for hidden depths in the upcoming Referendum.. If what is proposed passes, I doubt it will have much effect on voting intentions in a subsequent election. For what it’s worth, I am inclined to think that we will not have an election in 2018. I may eat those words, but fundamentally, the greater distance between the referendum and a subsequent election, the less backwash that is likely. The enactment … Read more