Is a new Ireland achievable or even desirable? – Free event this Wednesday night in Castlewellan…

After the success of our sold-out event in Belfast, we have been invited to run our New Ireland? event again in Castlewellan as part of The Soma Festival. The event is at 7pm this Wednesday the 18th in Maginns Bar, Castlewellan. Best of all, it is a free event 🙂 Is a New Ireland achievable or even desirable? Since 2016 there has been renewed interest in the debate about Northern Ireland’s constitutional future. As a community is our future better within … Read more

What should I tell my kids about the 12th July?

My kids always ask me what the flags are about. They find the black ones scary. But this year they were very impressed by the bunting and fresh Union Jacks in our area. ‘It’s making me feel very British’, said my five year old. ‘Me too, it makes me proud to be British’, added the seven year old. ‘That’s interesting,’ I said, thinking about their Irish passports in the drawer. And the fact that they tried to turn bath water … Read more

“549 days since the agreed institutions for governing Northern Ireland were collapsed…”

Another interesting speech from Micheál Martin in one of the Dail’s periodic Statements on Northern Ireland debates… No one can doubt the immense progress which has been in Northern Ireland because of the victory of democratic politics and the new beginning offered by the inclusive and brave agreement reached twenty years ago. The problems which confront Northern Ireland and this island as a whole today are nowhere near those experienced at the height of the violence and sectarianism of the previous … Read more

Political leaders unite to appeal for calm and condemn violence

The following has been issued by the leaders of Sinn Fein, DUP, UUP, SDLP, Alliance and Green parties. “Attacks on the police have been on-going for a number of days alongside other violence including sectarian attacks on houses, petrol bombs thrown at the police, intimidation of contractors, vehicles hi-jacked and attacks on sheltered accommodation. “The shots fired last night were a clear and obvious attempt to murder police officers. There must be a strong, clear and united voice against those … Read more

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

Aside from heat and frustration, the inspiration for Derry’s young rioters is no secret…

Interesting take on the spate of rioting in Derry that’s been going on for three days now on Morning Ireland. A local journalist tells RTE that no one local knows what it’s all been about or what sparked it. The preliminary target appears to have been the tiny Protestant enclave on the city side of the River Foyle, and according to the BBC, Sinn Fein MLA Karen Mullan said she believes dissident republicans have been orchestrating recent attacks: “Our youth workers … Read more

Fake politics in Westminster re Irish Language Act proposal

Watching the performance of Jim Shannon, the DUP MP for Strangford, in Westminster yesterday, a day of high drama otherwise in British politics, I was reminded that farce is a close relation to such dramatic intrigue. When Jim Shannon claims under parliamentary privilege that he’s for the idea of the Irish language but, it seems, apparently against any actual manifestation of An Ghaeilge in his sight lines or in those of his constituents,  does he not realise, for instance, that … Read more

Máiría Cahill to become an SDLP Councillor

Former Labour Senator, Máiría Cahill will become a Councillor on Lisburn and Castlereagh Council for the SDLP. You can read her interview with the BBC here.  Speaking about the move, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said; “Máiría Cahill has an extremely strong record of speaking out against injustice, maltreatment and inequality; we are confident that her attributes are best placed to compliment the values and vision of the SDLP, and we are delighted she has decided to make the SDLP her political … Read more

Reflecting on motherhood and transgenerational trauma…

Today I’m preparing for my 11th meeting with the World Mental Health Survey initiative, in Harvard. At my first meeting in 2005, Professor Brendan Bunting, Dr Sam Murphy and myself were planning the NI study of Health and Stress (NISHS), the largest study of mental health in NI, and part of an incredible initiative, which studied the rates of mental illness, treated and hidden, in countries all over the world. In 2005, we were having discussed whether people here would … 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

Theresa May claims to be a proponent of gay rights, and no doubt she is, in other parts of the UK. In Northern Ireland, however, she is countenance to their denial

By Eoin Tennyson A British Government survey of 108,000 LGBT individuals has affirmed that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is still alive and kicking across the UK. Two-thirds of those surveyed fear holding their partner’s hand in public while five percent have been offered controversial “conversion” therapy. These results may shock some in England, Scotland and Wales; but they are all too recognisable for those of us here in Northern Ireland. The Tories’ LGBT Action Plan … Read more

Defence Secretary Williamson revealed as private backer of an amnesty for soldiers

Despite this Sun ” exclusive,”  the ambitious Defence Secretary – the man who as chief whip negotiated the Conservative-DUP parliamentary deal – will have other things on his mind today – like which way will he jump on Theresa May’s Brexit plan?   GAVIN Williamson has secretly backed an amnesty for IRA terrorists — as the price for ending the witch-hunt of troops, The Sun can reveal. The Defence Secretary wants Theresa May to grant British troops who served in Northern … 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