Brexit battle lines drawn up, or the storm before the calm and other cliches

On the face of it,  the prospects are looking grim again but it may only mean that they’re getting down to business – at last- again. The BBC headlines “Brexit trade talks battle lines drawn.”  And the FT reports  that  the EU –  the  authoritative  Council of the nation states and not just the Commission of bureaucrats –  are taking a hard line for future negotiations with the UK –  slapping down Theresa May’s  supposedly emollient  attempt last week as … Read more

Closure of Kilroot – or how NOT to manage a ‘just transition’ to a low carbon energy economy

Kilroot Power Station

This is not how you plan a transition from a high to a low carbon energy economy.  The announcement a few weeks ago that the operator of Kilroot coal fired power station had lost out in the auction process within the all island Single Electricity Market (I-SEM), and the company announcing it will close the gates in May is not only a disaster for those workers, contractors and communities affected.  It is also a major setback for the managed transition … Read more

Engage with the Power of Reason

Peter O’Neill is the director and founder of the Imagine Festival of Politics and Ideas. Politics in Northern Ireland has had a tough year. With no Executive since January 2017, an election that changed little just over a year ago and the prospect of our departure from the EU firmly on the horizon, you could be forgiven for thinking that ideas on how to overcome these challenges are in short supply. One of the victims of the political impasse has … Read more

“Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald have been making eyes at each other, using Brexit as chaperone…”

Interesting observation from Eoghan Harris… Leo Varadkar is playing full-on footsie with Sinn Fein – although he must know that Sinn Fein is using Brexit, like it uses the Irish language, as a baton to beat up on Northern Prods. Behind their cosmetic digs at each other, Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald have been making eyes at each other, using Brexit as chaperone. Last Tuesday, at a meeting of Sinn Fein in Newry, Mary Lou McDonald patronisingly praised Fine … Read more

DUP Councillor refuses to engage with Pro-Choice Group

Emma Gallen is an activist for Alliance for Choice. Alliance for Choice had planned to be at several different International Women’s Day events last week. But the snow meant that many were postponed. As a result, a well meaning campaign, asking councillors at Belfast City Council to support Kate Nicholl’s motion to support the decriminalisation of abortion, gained more traction than expected. The debate at City Council was due to be on Thursday March 1st, but was also postponed due … Read more

Brexit latest sees Coveney urging more clarity with Dodds asking for more logic

The Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney appeared on the Andrew Marr Show this morning to speak about his response to Theresa May’s speech on Friday about the UK’s future partnership with the European Union. Some of his remarks are below; “It is a very complex thing for Britain to leave the EU… when you add in a fragile peace process this is a significant responsibility for the British government and I’m glad the PM made that clear in her speech” … Read more

10 years on from Ian Paisley’s departure

10 years ago today, Ian Paisley announced he was resigning was DUP and First Minister. He didn’t officially go until May. Paisley was succeeded by his long time deputy, Peter Robinson. In a rare moment of North-South cooperation, Bertie Ahern stood down as Taoiseach at the same time and was also succeeded by his Finance Minister, Brian Cowen. Here is the story breaking on UTV and his interview with the station Political Editor, Ken Reid   David McCannDavid McCann holds … Read more

Another angle on Sinn Féin’s Westminster abstention

Any debate about Sinn Féin’s Westminster abstention policy tends to cover no new ground. It always starts with someone – most recently Polly Toynbee – suggesting that SF should take their seats to pursue some common, worthwhile objective, in this case, that of blunting the sharp edges of brexit. It ends with SF supporters asserting that (a) it is a key republican principle that can’t be easily argued away; (b) that the party has a clear mandate to abstain from Westminster; … Read more

The case for Kilroot International Airport…

You might not realise it, but Northern Ireland’s air transportation links with the rest of the world are controlled by what amounts to a cartel. Cartels in the world of aviation are practically as old as flight itself. This cartel relies on regulation, restriction and operational inflexibility of aircraft type and the ability of airports to set uncompetitive rates. It is for example £28.99 per ton of aircraft and £20.30 per passenger plus security charges to leave from the City … Read more

The vast, terrifying vista of boundless possibility.

Storm clouds approaching

The slippery slope argument is a well-known logical fallacy for two reasons. Firstly, it is almost universally wrong. Secondly, it is almost universally believed. This is because human beings are innately loss-averse, preferring the certainty of the here and now (however imperfect) to the unknown possibilities of change. It is only when the here and now crosses a significant threshold of imperfection that uncertainty begins to look inviting. The mildly discontented compare the known and the unknown and say “don’t … Read more

BIPA and the ramping up of Anglo-Irish relations

This weekend fifty parliamentarians from Ireland, Britain and other parts of the archipelago are meeting in a hotel in Sligo for the 56th plenary of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. The BIPA rarely attracts much media attention except by accident such as when a geographically challenged MP drove to Newcastle, County Down rather than Newcastle upon Tyne for a plenary. But the BIPA is assuming greater importance thanks to Brexit, although the assembly plays no formal role. One of our most … Read more

One year on from #AE17….

Would you believe it? It’s been one year since the 2017 Assembly Election. If you want to relive the coverage of it, thanks to Youtube somebody has uploaded the BBC’s coverage here .   65% of us went out in awful weather to cast a ballot for the Assembly which is still actually yet to pass any legislation. We all know about the results, a surging Nationalism, Unionism without a majority and the Alliance Party securing strong gains. A year … Read more

So we just have to be smart. Apparently.

We are assured that technology will fix our borders (quite often by certain politicians, actually).  All we need are CCTV cameras at the border and no checks will be required according to a a report by Lars Karlsson, President of KGH Border Services, Former Director of World Customs Organization and Deputy Director General of Swedish Customs, so we are told by the DUP. Indeed, that’s what the Abstract says: This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ … Read more

A Snowball’s Chance in Rome: Climate Change Scientists Are All Agog at Cold Snap

‘The North Pole is warmer than much of Europe right now.’ That was a Tweet on Sunday (25.02.18) from lead climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, Robert Rohde. The big chill or ‘Beast from the East’ that has prompted warnings across the United Kingdom and Ireland is responsible for a deluge of colourful descriptions as climate scientists compete with headline writers to come to terms with the ‘wacky’, ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatic’ weather patterns in the Arctic. So what’s behind the drop … Read more

Surf and turf

Boats with EU, UK flags sailing in opposite directions

As blogger David Allen Green has pointed out, whoever produces the first draft of a legal document has the advantage. While the EU has been criticised for its backstop-Brexit draft, the UK has conspicuously failed to produce any draft at all, and shows no signs of doing so. The final transition agreement is thus unlikely to differ from the EU’s draft in anything other than some finer details and cosmetic language. This was of course predicable and widely predicted back … Read more

EU document is the equivalent of a government white paper, so the telling detail is yet to come…

With the tensions getting high over the EU’s release of a well leaked draft of the EU’s terms for the UK’s exit, the speculation around its intentions as much implications could prove to be as damaging as any actual outcome. The UUP’s response this afternoon quotes a piece of text in Article 4, regarding the free movement of goods: “…the territory of Northern Ireland, excluding the territorial waters of the United Kingdom (the “territory of Northern Ireland”), shall be considered … Read more

Paula Bradshaw: We need to talk about domestic violence

Alliance Party MLA, Paula Bradshaw writes for Slugger for the issue of domestic violence We need to talk about domestic violence. Specifically, we need to recognise that the failure to restore the Executive and Assembly is holding up efforts to protect women (and men) from domestic abuse, stalking, and coercive control. Judith Gillespie’s timely contribution to the debate reminds us that – regardless of the esteem in which our devolved institutions are held – they remain the forum to deliver … Read more

Are the terms civic “unionists” and civic “nationalists” an oxymoron?

  Over the past year we’ve heard many laments about the vacuum in decision taking but little specifically critical of politics from leaders of society. That’s par for the course for people who  have been keeping our  show on the road for decades. Few of them had little respect for political parties who in their view held society back. But now twenty years after the GFA and after a year – or many years by another measure – of deadlock, … Read more

“where reconciliation is a selective process, healing a pernicious and destabilising past remains as a challenge to us all.”

It’s had a muted response, both here on Slugger and in the wider media but this intervention from a group of Civic Unionists and unaligned others makes some senior points about the way NI politics is conducted as though they did not exist. I hope we’ll have a direct contribution from the group here on Slugger, but for now here’s the text… “We the undersigned desire a transparent and inclusive debate concerning rights, truth, equality and civil liberties and in … Read more