The Churches are backing themselves into a corner of Northern Ireland’s narrow ground. The laity should take over

Following on from the testimony of  Gerry Lynch and Elizabeth Nelson, it’s  hardly a surprise that the continuing revolution in faith and morals over abortion and  LGBT rights won elsewhere but not here,  is splitting the churches. True to ancient form, the leaderships of the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Churches are treating what is actually a clash of moralities as challenges to authority.  The Catholics appeal to canon law, the Presbyterians to the Bible. And that is still that. For … Read more

Presbyterians, Salvation, and God

We cremated my friend James on the freakishly warm Friday before St Patrick’s Day, between the two bouts of even freakier snow. We did this after a celebration of the Supper of the Lord Jesus Christ who was his Saviour and the anchor of his life. The daffodils bobbed in the sunshine as we took his coffin through the traffic from the church in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral to the crematorium in East Finchley, his terminus ad quem … Read more

Well Taoiseach, Féile an Phobail is not “simply a community event”…

Little did I think on Tuesday when I wrote that precedent in politics is no guide to the future that it would take less than 24 hours for some modest proof to emerge. So the Taoiseach is coming to meet the Orange Order, but the real political interest lies in the fact that he is launching the Feile an Phobail or West Belfast Festival: one of the most richly funded community festivals in these islands. As Chris pointed out on Twitter, two … Read more

Abortion Alliances Transcending Orange and Green

One of the first things I became involved in through the Belfast Feminist Network was a short play about abortion. It attempted to tell the stories of women’s experiences accessing abortions from Northern Ireland. At the time, around 2011, it was novel. We weren’t even telling real stories, per se, but writing them based on conversations with real women. We performed it a couple of times, and then the artistic conversations moved on to telling real women’s actual stories – … Read more

Make no mistake about it, this was an important judgement for human rights in Northern Ireland

On the 7th June 2018 the Supreme Court finally delivered its judgement on Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. Activists and lawyers have been waiting for the ruling with baited breath. The decision comes a few weeks after the referendum in the Republic of Ireland to repeal the Eighth Amendment. It’s fair to say the judgement wasn’t quite what people expected. The case was, as Lady Hale said, ‘an unusually difficult case to resolve.’ In a sprawling 144 page judgement four of … Read more

Young People Not Immune to Political Deadlock

Paul McCusker is the SDLP Councillor for Oldpark Twenty years on from the Good Friday Agreement, the ceasefire generation – for the most part – live a peaceful and prosperous life, free from the violence and the heartache of the past. There is however a forgotten generation; a generation who still feel the weight of living in areas controlled by paramilitaries, whose parents and grandparents lost their lives in the conflict, who live in communities barricaded by “peace” walls, who … Read more

An evening with Alastair Campbell #belfastbook

Once described as the third most powerful person in Britain, the still formidable Alastair Campbell was in Belfast on as part of the Belfast Book Festival to talk about his new novel Saturday Bloody Saturday. During the Q&A he confirmed his support for the Iraq War and talked about The Thick Of It.

Are we seeing the end of the DUP/Sinn Fein approach to the economy?

The Economy spokesperson for Sinn Fein, Conor Murphy had a platform piece in the Belfast Telegraph this morning about the under performance of the Northern Ireland economy over the past decade of devolution which has some interesting content in it. He argues; A proper Industrial Strategy requires rigor and an attention to detail. These are not qualities typically associated with the DUP’s decade in control of the main economic Department. DUP ministers comfortably talked the language of the business community … Read more

Join us for a live event – Is a New Ireland achievable or even desirable? Tuesday the 26th of June 2018…

Since 2016 there has been renewed interest in the debate about Northern Ireland’s constitutional future.  As a community is our future better within the United Kingdom or charting a new course in a United Ireland?  Two very different paths sit in front of us and our panel of political experts and politicians aims to tease out the key issues that are central to this debate. Hosted by Slugger O’Toole in partnership with Evolve CPA Panellists;  Alex Kane – political commentator Allison … Read more

Arlene Foster challenges Sinn Fein to debate abortion reform in the Assembly, claiming SF support for DUP stance

Arlene Foster says some Sinn Fein supporters have told her they will vote DUP because of her party’s position on abortion. In her first interview since Ireland’s referendum on the issue, she told Sky News a lot of people were feeling “disenfranchised” by the result. “I have had emails from Nationalists and Republicans in Northern Ireland not quite believing what is going on and saying they will be voting for the DUP because they believe we are the only party … Read more

The wheeze lasted less than 24 hours…

Trouble is, if you start a hare running you may have to shoot it.  David Davis had proposed Northern Ireland have a joint regime of UK and EU customs regulations, allowing it to trade freely with both, and a 10-mile wide “special economic zone” on the border with Ireland, thus avoiding checks there. The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) declined to comment directly on the report, but also did not reject it, saying work was underway to “refine” possible customs … Read more

Did you miss Nationalism’s lightening fast “narrative re-alignment” on abortion?

That burning you can smell is the whiff of brakes being heavily applied and policy getting a rapid on the track change. Newton has a good piece on the Irish Times which gives a rundown on the policy positions prior to and through last Friday. He starts with this report from 1983, a young Arlene Foster: It’s been generally read that young Arlene was in favour of abortion at the time. Personally, I’ve no idea if she was but I’m pretty … Read more

500 days without a government – Do we really care?

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Parliament_Buildings_Stormont.jpg

Today marks 500 days without a government in Northern Ireland. There is a handy website that tracks the days. We only have 89 days to go till we beat the Belgium record (we can do it!). I suspect I am not the only one who could not give a monkies. There are no massive public protests, more a collective shrug of the shoulders. Personally, I am enjoying the quiet. What is interesting is even without a government, life rumbles on … Read more

Free Event. Happy Birthday NHS? What is the future of health and social care? – Tuesday 19th June 2018.

This year the NHS turns 70 and the health service in Northern Ireland is under immense pressure. Already health takes over 50% of all Stormont expenditure and that figure is growing all the time. With an ageing population as well as the increase in conditions like obesity, diabetes and dementia, the demands keep growing. Join our expert panel for a debate on the future of Health in Northern Ireland. The panel includes: Dr George O’Neill – local GP and well … Read more

Social progress is an important part of ensuring the Union is a more attractive proposition…

While I personally do not support abortion, I do support a woman’s right to have one if she chooses. I think it would be wrong for anyone to think that the referendum held in Ireland to repeal the 8th amendment will not have an effect in Northern Ireland. Of course, it will in the same way the decision to allow women from Northern Ireland to access abortions on the NHS England had an effect. I sometimes sense that some believe … Read more

Senior Conservatives are willing to defy the DUP over abortion

Perhaps the abortion issue is emerging as a new category which breaks the  rules of  conventional political wisdom.  As far as Westminster is concerned, It seems the last word has not been spoken by Theresa May. This is a devolved matter. Our focus is restoring a democratically accountable devolved government in Northern Ireland so that locally accountable politicians can make decisions on behalf of the public they represent.” It is not only Stella Creasy and mainly Labour colleagues that are … Read more

I don’t want a shared future, I want a shared now

You know summer is on the way in Northern Ireland, when we get 3 straight days of sunshine, prompting an outbreak of ‘taps aff’. Anyone unfortunate to witness the sight of some local men wandering the streets half naked, knows that a row about flags is just around the corner. A few weeks ago, just off the Ravenhill Road, a part of the world I call my home, four loyalist paramilitary flags went up on lampposts overnight, near a shared … Read more

Do Labour MP Stella Creasy and friends have the knowledge and stamina to progress abortion reform against the odds?

You thought it had gone quiet? Not if Stella Creasy can help it.  Repealing the nineteenth century Act which ultimately banned abortion and is still on the statute book, would be a route to broadening the scope of abortion regulations in Northern Ireland. So claims Ms Creasy the Labour MP who is championing the cause at Westminster. She has set out her stall not only in the Times but the Guardian. The repeal of the 1861 Offences against the Person … Read more

The direct Westminster route to abortion reform is not the one to follow. It’s time for civil society to step up to the plate

Northern Ireland as a place apart over abortion rights has exposed many English MPs to the complexities of devolution for the first time over something they care about deeply, so much so that they seemed at first to dismiss them altogether. There is a precedent of a kind.  On Brexit Westminster is ignoring the SNP government’s refusal to assent to the terms of EU withdrawal on the grounds that this is a reserved matter for Westminster. Although  abortion rights are … Read more

Simple reform of the Petititon of Concern will facilitate movement on abortion in Northern Ireland

Regular readers of Slugger will know that I’m a firm resister of that favourite liberal reflex, so destructively pervasive in Northern Ireland, which is to blame the DUP for every little thing that goes wrong (including, most implausibly) the breakdown of Stormont. Nor do I criticise politicians for standing up for their own conscience and moral convictions when it comes to something as complex and perplexing as abortion. The trite, hectoring tone in parts of the southern media for TDs … Read more