Brexit and the fantasy outcomes it engenders may not be real, but real change is going to come…

So, as Brian points out, Jeremy Corbyn seems to have disappointed a lot of unionist politicians by not really giving them much to go on re the seemingly promised promotion of a United Ireland. This is a short video introduction to a piece I had published in the Guardian on Friday, discussing why the ambiguities introduced by the prolonged Article 50 negotiation process would not in themselves deliver either a border poll or a united Ireland.   Mick FealtyMick is … Read more

SluggerTV looks at the smaller parties, West Tyrone & the SDLP special conference

This month we debate the West Tyrone by-election, the SDLP special conference and the other smaller parties with Brendan Mulgrew from MWA Advocate, Andree Murphy who is an Andersonstown News Columnist and the Irish News reporter, Brendan Hughes. David McCannDavid McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

Is an initiative imminent to restore Stormont? Are DUP and Sinn Fein ready?

Jeremy Corbyn will have disappointed any unionist hoping for a distraction from the  continuing political vacuum.  Deftly skirting the traps set for him by the DUP to meet (presumably mainly unionist) victims of the Troubles and uniquely denounce the IRA, he slipped in and out of Northern Ireland unscathed.  Instead he played a straight bat, Declining to become a persuader for unity, he would  back a border poll only  “within  the terms of the Agreement”  and he deserved unionist gratitude however grudging, by rejecting  special status for Northern Ireland within the EU.    He might have uttered hints of retribution against the DUP for keeping the Conservatives in power, but if he was tempted, he forbore. The verdict of the New Statesman bears repetition.

The longer the government’s inaction continues, the less crazy the idea of welcoming a Labour government seems. The party’s 2017 manifesto, one senior figure in the Northern Irish business community told me, was “not that mad” but “almost Blairesque” on the issues that mattered. Its propositions of extra investment infrastructure and training were attractive. There is also the fact that Labour’s vision for Brexit – if it can be described as such – offers more answers for business than Theresa May’s. Contrast this if not explicitly friendly than unquestionably receptive attitude to Corbyn with the frosty reception Karen Bradley received from businesses enraged by the NIO’s sluggish, laissez-faire approach to restoring devolution then it is clear that Labour are faced with an open goal.

The less Corbyn is seen to stir memories of Northern Ireland’s troubled past and the more he is seen to offer practical solutions to the anxieties of the future on Brexit and devolution, the more credible his Labour will become as a UK-wide government in waiting. There remains the question, however, of how credible Corbyn himself can ever be. He did not offer the unequivocal and specific condemnation of IRA violence many have asked for. On Wednesday, his spokesman said he still believed in a united Ireland as a point of principle. Labour cannot normalise its relationship with unionism under Corbyn if these running sores are not cauterised. There appears to be no plan to do so.

Perhaps- but somehow healing the running sores no longer seems so

Read moreIs an initiative imminent to restore Stormont? Are DUP and Sinn Fein ready?

Former 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

What can Evangelicals learn from #repealthe8th

It was the closing celebration at New Wine in Sligo last summer, one of Ireland’s largest gatherings of Evangelical Christians. If you’re familiar with these events, the final evening is a vibrant celebration with bible teaching and vibrant praise and worship, with the aim of sending the masses out affirmed and emboldened in their faith. Arriving slightly late for the final event I walked past a table laden with hundreds of anti-abortion books. These were to be given free to … Read more

Will Northern Ireland now look to the Republic for abortion rights – or Trump’s America?

On the face of it, you’d think it’s a non- question. It just couldn’t  happen in Northern Ireland where the direction of travel is surely  the other way. But in the States, Roe v Wade, the essential abortion law of the whole country, is under unprecedented attack from the conservative evangelical right, coalescing round the Trump coalition. Given the ideological split on the current Supreme Court, with five conservative justices to four liberal ones, President Donald Trump is one Supreme Court … Read more

Could we relinquish “the hand of history” by building a 21C Assembly away from Stormont hill?

When Tony Blair stepped out of the Hillsborough hothouse in 1998 and announced that ‘the hand of history’ was on the negotiators’ collective shoulder, he sounded just a little over-awed: ‘A day like today is not a day for sound bites, we can leave those at home, but I feel the hand of history upon our shoulder with respect to this, I really do.’ Now that the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement has come and gone, looking at … Read more

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future

Carla Lockhart, DUP MLA for Upper Bann, argues in favour of retaining the 8th amendment.  In recent weeks and months a passionate debate has been taking place right across Ireland on the subject of abortion. This Friday, a referendum will take place in the Republic of Ireland on whether or not the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution, which upholds the value and worth of both mothers and unborn babies, should be removed. In Northern Ireland, three councils have recently debated … Read more

With May’s border plan rebuffed already, is the UK edging towards the single market as well as a customs union?

The gloves are off  with weeks to go before  the terms of  the UK’s withdrawal are supposed  to be presented  to EU leaders. In the most scathing briefing of its kind that  I can recall, a “senior EU official” has dismissed  Theresa May’s plan for  a British backstop  for remaining aligned  to the customs union as “fantasy” even before it’s  tabled. In turn the British complain of being insulted. To cap it all the  two sides are locked in a … Read more

Unionism’s “inclusiveness” must have passed me by

Born in November 1998, I am technically a “post-Troubles” baby, a child of the “new Northern Ireland”. I have never known the routine bomb scares and checkpoints that my parents knew; unlike their generation, I am unaccustomed to seeing a soldier in uniform. I became aware of politics around the beginning of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness’ time as first ministers; those halcyon days. Still somewhat on a high from the Chuckle Brothers era of Paisley/McGuinness, there was an air … Read more

A border poll will not just be about the choice between the union and a united Ireland. Any border poll will be a referendum on Northern Ireland itself

Northern Irish politics has been all about polls for the past week. According to the Times, Theresa May isn’t too confident that unionists would win a border poll. The Prime Minister is that cack-handed people worried she’d triggered a border poll by accident. She hadn’t. Then, on the 21st May, two polls by ICM and MORI were released that showed support for the union, but with caveats that should keep unionists on their toes. The prospect of a border poll … Read more

Four parties issue a joint statement on Brexit.

Four party leaders representing 49 MLAs have penned a joint statement on Brexit. On 23rd June 2016 citizens voted to remain within the European Union. Despite this, the British Government intend to exit the EU in March 2019. Sinn Féin, Green Party, Alliance and the Social Democratic and Labour Party all share the common position that we should stay within both the single market and customs union and that there should be no hard border on the island of Ireland … Read more

“Less poll-watching, more planning [and more action], please….”

One of the problems with the Queens survey Brian highlighted this morning is that the Brexit related questions are couched in hypothetical terms “what if”. That makes them hard to read, and easy to dismiss. Nevertheless, it lances certain popular misassumptions about where we’re going. The vacuum of the last few years both in Northern Ireland and Westminster has given rise to an enormous amount of hyperbole around the consequences of a hard Brexit, most of it based on political … Read more

Arlene Foster;Unionism stands for pluralism and multi-culturism. We are inclusive and welcome all.

Some of the DUP Leader, Arlene Foster’s remarks in London today; And as a unionist I see no logic or rationale for a hard border being created between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Indeed we do not want to see that at all. The only people stirring up myths of border checkpoints are those who are committed to unpicking the Union. They seek to use such imagery to advance and build support for their long-term political objective. They will … Read more

Soapbox: Jorja, her rare condition and a pressing need to legalise medicinal cannabis…

Robin Emerson is father to Jorja Emerson and keen activists for rare diseases and the legalisation of medicinal cannabis. Jorja Emerson was born on 26th February 2016, a beautiful baby girl weighing just 5lbs. After a number of months, we started noticing that Jorja was not developing like a typical baby her age, and in December we discovered that Jorja had a rare 1q43q44 chromosome deletion, and was most likely the only baby in Ireland with this specific chromosome deletion. … Read more

Soapbox: Housing Then and Now – Conference on 15 June in Dungannon, 50 years on from Caledon sit-in

HOUSING THEN AND NOW – one day free conference in Dungannon on Friday 15 June examines the housing allocation system in the 1960s, civil rights marches, the formation of the NI Housing Executive, and the present day challenge of how to provide social housing which is not divided on religious grounds with input from activists, academics and the students of today.

The royal wedding: an entertainment that is also an investment in the future of the British state

The wedding of the Kilkeels belongs in that part of the human imagination that houses dreams and fantasy.   With identity such a great part of the imagination  on our island,  it is easily recognised as such, although what part of the imagination is affected can sharply differ. My memories are vivid of the pretty decent royal coverage in the Dublin media in 1973  when I was covering  the trial in Winchester of Gerry Kelly, the Price sisters and five others … Read more

SDLP adopt a conscience policy on abortion at their special conference

At a special conference today in Maghera, the SDLP have allowed their members and representatives a conscience vote on the issue of abortion. This allows MLAs such as Claire Hanna a chance to vote for a less restrictive regime around abortion in Northern Ireland. The vast majority of the SDLP parliamentary party will likely still vote in favour of the status quo, but this does open the way for more pro-choice activitsts within the party to advance their views. The … Read more

But a new customs backstop won’t be enough….

If the temporary extension  of the customs relationship was greeted with euphoria, it was shortlived, as the FT reports. It exposes the next big issue. The single market looms. Mrs May was accused by some Conservative MPs of “bouncing” the cabinet into adopting the scheme, and others said they had been kept in the dark. Senior EU officials also expressed doubts about the UK approach, warning that it diverges significantly from Brussels’ preferred outcome. “If this is it, we will … Read more

The Rorschach Test

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I argued in an earlier piece that the word “Unionism” should be handled with extreme care, because it has become overloaded with far too many overlapping yet inconsistent meanings. For slightly different reasons, we should also avoid using the phrase “United Ireland”. “Unionism” refers to a collection of existing things that can, with effort, be distinguished from each other. “United Ireland”, or its modern euphemism “New Ireland”, means nothing much at all, because it refers to a hypothetical something that … Read more

The Criminal Justice System and Lessons from the Belfast Rape Trial

The issues around the recent Belfast rape case have been well rehearsed; the unavoidable media saturation kept it well on the agenda of too many workplace coffee breaks and social media rants. This article will not rehash those conversations. Its purpose is to explore the challenge made to the criminal justice system by the activists who organised the rallies in its aftermath. The rally outside the court on the day after the judgement saw around 800 people attend in a … Read more