Mark Durkan suggests renewal review of Good Friday Agreement

Former SDLP Leader, Mark Durkan speaking in Dublin tonight has suggested a renewal review of the Good Friday Agreement. He told his audience; “As the Brexit negotiations intensify, it’s welcome that the EU27 have continued to voice a strong commitment to protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts. It’s critical, however, that such a commitment extends to protecting it in its promise and potential as well. “The full potential and flexibility of Strands Two and Three must be … Read more

Northern Ireland vs East German states in the 21st century

The Northern Ireland peace dividend has not been as great as Germany’s unification dividend. In 2000 Northern Ireland’s estimated GDP per capita was greater than all the regions that made up East Germany. Now every East German region has a GDP greater than NI. Though all below EU28 average. — John O’Brien (@jlpobrien) March 20, 2018 If you want to learn more about the cost of German unification you can do so here     David McCannDavid McCann holds … Read more

It has to be faced. Brexit will happen. The Irish border problem will not stop it

It’s now clear to me that we convinced Remainers must accept that Brexit is going to happen. It will not implode through the weight of its own contradictions. There is no prospect of an alternative government that will halt the process. Yesterday felt like a real turning point.  As a result of yesterday’s agreement on the transition period the EU leaders will ratify on Thursday, the UK will remain within the single market and the customs Union beyond the Leave … Read more

The Good Friday Agreement: A Milestone, not the Finish Line

Twenty years on since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and it is now being called into question, but not for the right reasons. The agreement’s fitness for purpose has been challenged in recent weeks as it is perceived as standing in the way of the hard Brexit that some desire. Rather than question the agreement because Northern Ireland is currently without an assembly or because even whilst there was an assembly in place its legislative record was pitiful, … Read more

New book on Martin McGuinness launching this week

  Martin McGuinness’ untimely death has loomed large over the suspension of our political institutions and the collapse of trust that has defined the period since. His elevation as a statesman in the post-Good Friday Agreement era surprised many and it is no exaggeration to say that he will be remembered in time as the pre-eminent figure in the early devolution period who more than anyone else kept the institutions afloat and worked power-sharing between the most unlikely partners of … Read more

Belfast’s Titanic Quarter is a soulless hole of a place. Discuss.

On St Patrick’s Day morning I found myself in what felt like the arctic tundra but was actually Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. The occasion was to cheer on some friends who were running the Craic 10k race. The biting wind and snow just added to the desolate gloom of the place. Now to be fair it was bad weather in most places, but I have been to the Titanic Quarter in July and the wind would cut you. The whole area just has … Read more

After brinkmanship, agreement on the transition period, but another fudge on the border. The ” backstop” for Northern Ireland remains

Breaking….. I had just filed a piece below headlined “brinkmanship on the border “ when the Irish Times reported that that the British had agreed to accept  a legal  draft text containing  the “ backstop” option 3 on keeping Northern Ireland in alignment with the EU after Brexit as part of transition terms for exiting the Union. RTE also has the story There is a huge provisio. Both sides want a comprehensive final deal that negates any need for special status … Read more

Brinkmanship on the Border

Another day, another doubt.   After a weekend of sherpa preparations for the EU summit on Thursday and Friday, both sides are still unsure they can reach an agreed position by tomorrow night on transition terms and duration   for the UK’s departure from the EU.  From the Irish Times preview of the David/Barnier meeting, it’s clear that the Irish government neither want nor need to  take sole responsibility for imposing a veto on a transition timetable later this week. Irish and … Read more

Senior Irish and British figures mark death of Sean O’Callaghan

IRA informer Sean O’Callaghan’s life and legacy will be marked by senior representatives of the British and Irish states on Wednesday. They will be joined by many of his friends in London, where he made his life and from where he gave invaluable advice to David Trimble about how to deal with his former close colleagues in the IRA. The former IRA commander gave the intelligence services in Britain and Ireland vital information about IRA operations and the thinking of … Read more

Why is Derry So Poor? Part III – The Solutions

It is clear that there are economic and social challenges facing Northern Ireland’s second city, and that little is being done to address them. So what type of solutions could be pursued to enable Derry to fulfil its potential as a key economic generator for the north west of the island ? Here are some suggestions : 1. Acknowledge the Problem The first step in dealing with any problem is to acknowledge its existence. Yet there has been no official … Read more

Dublin not expected to use their “border veto” against a transition deal for the UK

Brexit talks will become more intensive over the next six months and will feature a greater focus in the Irish border, according to the EU side.  This week looks likes providing one of those so-called crunch moments when a key Brexit decision is reached in black and white but with grey edges.  The UK are hoping for agreement on a transition period longer than December 2020 as currently mooted,  during  which the UK would pay full EU budgetary contributions. The … Read more

The spending dilemma in the NI Health Service

Nick Garbutt over on Scope NI has an excellent article on health spending and the challenges facing us in the future First to the budget. Secretary of State Karen Bradley’s written statement commits to a 5.5% uplift on last year’s allocation. This sounds terrific. But it is important to remember that the increase is based on last year’s starting position. However last year an extra £140 million was found for Health through in-year allocations – redistributing unspent monies from other … Read more

Towards a Respectful Future report launched

The DUP, UUP and PUP groups on Belfast City Council launched the Towards a Respectful Future document this morning in Belfast City Hall. The Councillors present were Lee Reynolds, John Kyle, Billy Hutchinson, George Dorrian and Jim Rodgers. The full report is available here but some of the key findings were •The vast majority of bonfires and associated activities are well organised and managed. These include events which are part of and separate from the Belfast City Council Bonfire and … Read more

Join us for our live event ‘Reasons to be cheerful – 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement’…

Join the Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey of Northern Ireland, local motivational speaker Alex Kane and Irish News happiness correspondent Allison Morris for a night of positivity. We can’t promise firewalks or group hugs but we can promise you a great night of debate and entertainment as we find reasons to be cheerful 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement. Date: Tuesday the 10th of April 2018. Doors open 6:45pm, event starts: 7:15pm Venue: The Dark Horse Bar, Belfast. … Read more

Taking their seats at Westminster would be a high risk U-turn for Sinn Fein

Noel Whelan  in the Irish Times  today repeats  the case for Sinn Fein to take their seats at Westminster  – but only after a general election for which the end of abstention would be in their manifesto. This differs from the plea by the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee who recently wrote that ..the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, ventured to call on the party on Wednesday to take up their six – soon to be seven – Westminster seats “to make things better … Read more

DUP’s advantage through Boundary Commision is largely restorative…

Interesting response from Sinn Fein over the latest boundary changes. Francie Molloy in the Independent writes… Sinn Féin warned at the time that the DUP would attempt to insert this issue into their negotiations with the Tories so it came as little surprise to us that the new proposals were virtually indistinguishable from the DUP’s. The Boundary Commission deny there has been a deliberate gerrymander at the behest of the DUP and stress their independence from political interference. Nevertheless, they … Read more

Beneath the Harp and Crown: Philip Orr Speaks ahead of the Premiere of his new play about UDR Veteran

‘Beneath the Harp and Crown,’ a new play by Philip Orr, premieres next week in four venues. The play was developed in collaboration with Decorum NI, a charity based support group for veterans of the security forces and their families who served during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The play is billed as addressing the question, ‘Can a UDR veteran come to terms with his painful past?’ It is a one-man show performed by Brian Payne. There will be post-show … Read more

No threat to the Good Friday Agreement in sight, but bolder joint action is needed after St Patrick’s Day

Traditionally the St Patrick’s Day pilgrimages to America have been occasions for everybody involved in our politics to be on their best behaviour and bask in waves of Irish-American blarney. Not so much this year, as  Arlene Foster and Mary Lou McDonald have been left off the White House invitees list for failing to clinch the deal to get Stormont going again. But Adams and Paisley jnr are lurking in the wings as  living reminders of past glories compared to … Read more

This cannot simply be a numbers game. Unity will only occur peacefully through dialogue and co-operation with both nationalists and unionists

Cathal Haughey is Dublin Organizer of Ógra Fianna Fáil and committee member of DCU4UNITY From the 7th-9th of March, Dublin City University students voted overwhelmingly in favor (76%) for their Students’ Union to support Irish reunification. The campaign was run by ‘DCU4Unity’ and had cross-party support from the DCU branches of Ógra Fhianna Fáil, Ógra Shinn Féin and Labour Youth. I was delighted to be appointed to the committee of the campaign as chair of the DCU Ógra Fhianna Fail. … Read more