The bizarre story of banknotes in the United Kingdom

Over the past while we’ve been debating a number of things around “special status” for Northern Ireland. Coincident with this debate was the announcement from Ulster Bank of a plan to issue new, verticially-oriented banknotes. I found myself in rare agreement with North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, who suggested on twitter that we could look at a move to Bank of England notes. I noted again this morning that the topic on discussion on the Nolan Show, where the proprietor … 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

Meanwhile in Scotland, courtesy of Brexit, the long march to Indyref2 is about to begin

Tomorrow Nicola Sturgeon will unveil the SNPs economic case for  another independence campaign.  As it will focus attention on Scotland’s sluggish economic performance under an SNP government on the defensive, it’s a high risk strategy. Support for Indyref2  would first exploit resentment that the UK government has given no weight to the  big Remain majority in Scotland and will ignore  the Scottish Parliament’s  refusal to give consent to a Withdrawal Bill   that would fail to devolve powers over agriculture and fishing  … Read more

Brexit: what the hell happens now? And Brexit and Ireland – Two interesting books on Brexit…

Let me be clear from the outset: I am a Remainer. I’ve not seen or read anything that would materially change my opinion. The European Union (EU) may have its problems, but overall I see it as a force for good. I live in N Ireland; here, we voted to remain in the EU. But the vote of the English outweighed this, and the vote in Scotland. The ‘will of the people’ is to Leave. The government triggered the Article … Read more

The Future of Referendums: What Role Should They Play and How Should They Be Conducted?

Referendums are now established as part of the UK’s political landscape.  They are widely seen as necessary before some fundamental constitutional changes are made.  Politicians will continue from time to time to find it useful to manage conflicts by proposing to put certain decisions to the people. Yet, despite their importance, there has been little concerted thinking recently about how referendums should be conducted.  Two inquiries conducted in the 1990s – by the Nairne Commission and the Committee on Standards … Read more

Thousands attend #IBelieveHer Rape Trial Rallies Across Ireland

Thousands of people across Ireland came out today to protest after yesterday’s not guilty verdicts in the rugby rape trials.  Rallies were held in Belfast, Dublin, Derry, Limerick and Cork. The Belfast rally was at the Laganside Courthouse, with about 1000 people (Talkback estimate) – women and men, young and old – cohering around messages of #IBelieveHer and #Metoo. The rally at O’Connell Street in Dublin was even bigger. It’s been a harrowing 9 week trial, and it’s raised a lot … 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

Laura

William Ennis, an east Belfast loyalist and PUP member, pays tribute to sex worker, rights campaigner and activist, Laura Lee. It was just before midnight when my phone rang. It was a dear friend. As soon as she spoke, I knew something was wrong.  Her voice was broken, and she demanded to know if I was seated. I assured her I was. “Laura’s gone”, she wept. “Laura’s gone.” My voice simply failed me, and I could only listen to her sobs. When I finally could make a sound, I … Read more

Now we see who’s ‘red (white and blue) lines’ are holding up the show!

It’s becoming increasingly clear that unionist political parties and politicians have set their opposition to an Irish Language Act and, by extension, any form of an Irish identity within ‘British’ NI as a priority ‘red line’ ahead of returning to powersharing or, even, at the most fundamental level aspiring to an equal Union between NI and the rest of the UK. The rhetoric today from Arlene Foster in which she set out what she would not countenance in response to … Read more

Courage of Kingsmills Victims Defied Sectarian Divide

Reconciliation statue Photo by Amanda Slater

Much ink has been spilled about the sorry Barry McElduff/Kingsmills loaf saga. Susan McKay’s analysis in Tuesday’s Irish Times is one of the most insightful, but bleak, contributions. It’s worth reading her full text, which brings her to this conclusion: The absence of reconciliation has never been more starkly apparent, and as usual, those most hurt in the past are hurt again. One paragraph in McKay’s article jumped out for me, because though tragic, it demonstrated for me that there … Read more

Nothing since the referendum has shifted the identities that underpinned the result…

Interesting piece from Professor Wynn Jones of Cardiff University on the role of competing identities unwriting the Brexit result in June 2017, which offers clues as to why attitudes are unlikely to change not least because cultural certainties will likely withstand economic hardship… Nothing since the referendum has shifted the identities that underpinned the result – quite the opposite. Far from seeking to manufacture what political scientists called “loser’s consent” following the close overall result, Theresa May’s administration has simply … Read more

Take Back Control – of our Ulster-Scots histories

A friend of mine was sacked from the civil service for saying that Ulster-Scots was a made up language. Unfortunately he said it in the newspaper. But lots of us have said it in private, right? LOLed at the dafties whilst railing against the DUP. Or for unionists, awkwardly pushed it forward as a political issue. I’ve been thinking recently about how radical the Scottish legacy in Northern Ireland is. And how uncomfortably this sits beside our understandings of Ulster-Scots … Read more

#Brexit: A Revolution Drifting Towards Failure

It is a matter of historical fact that most attempted revolutions fail. Sometimes the ancient regime reasserts itself in a counter-revolution. In other cases, the revolution clears away a creaking old order only to be itself swept away by a third force. The two most significant revolutions of the 20th Century were of the latter type: the double revolutions in Russia in 1917 and Iran in 1978-9. It is worth giving this preamble as Brexit now looks like a revolution … Read more

Ruth Davidson’s breath of fresh air

Ruth Davidson, the leader of the reviving Scottish Conservatives, is a Tory of a different hue from the stereotype. The Unherd website she has written for has attracted the attention of the mainstream media. You don’t have to be a conservative  to feel  the hint of a breath of fresh air blowing through our troubled politics and to hope against hope  for a read across the North Channel.  This is how to think about politics.   Extracts The consensus surrounding … Read more

“willingness of political leaders to step away at times from the tight chains of their tribe…”

Emily O’Reilly speaking at the BIPA in Kilkenny this morning with a useful reminder of how the Belfast Agreement came about: As a journalist from the early 1980s until 2003, I covered major events from the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement through to the 1998 Good Friday or Belfast Agreement and for several years after that as the Agreement became embedded I covered its ebbs and flows. I lived in Belfast for a period in the late 1980s and witnessed too … Read more

Stormont collapse ensures Northern Ireland cannot [further] exploit England’s Brexit difficulties…

It didn’t escape Nigel Farage or Michael Portillo’s notice last night that Michel Barnier was over pouring sweet nothings into the ears of anyone who could remotely cause Theresa May and the Tories a great deal of trouble. It’s an acute move on the part of the EU’s chief operator negotiator to exploit the post referendum splits within the UK and a perfect opportunity for him to take notes from the Leader of the Opposition as well as the First … Read more

Question for the NI Justice Minister…

Here’s something for an incoming Northern Ireland Justice Minister to grapple with…  It’s a question that arises following the UK Government’s decision to provide access for women from Northern Ireland to abortion services in England free on the NHS. From yesterday’s written answers in Parliament. Abortion: Northern Ireland Diana Johnson: [2513]To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities, with reference to her letter of 29 June 2017 on funding for abortions for Northern Irish women in England, what assessment she … Read more

Lessons from Scotland: “Helplessness, not independence, is the false dream… “

If you’ve read nothing else about Scottish politics (or more precisely, Scottish political culture), Neil Ascherton in the Sunday Herald yesterday reveals what underwrites the appeal of the discourse around Scottish independence: Some people now let themselves hope that the “independence dream is dead” or at least dying. In that Tuesday debate, Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale were irritated, as well as surprised, to find that Sturgeon had merely shifted the next indyref along the calendar. They want the idea of Scotland’s independence to … Read more

How the Con-DUP deal took the Barnett Bypass…

Hat tip to John Campbell on Good Morning Ulster this morning for a link to this interesting piece on what the Barnett Formula is, and what it is not, and how the DUP-Tory deal stands up to scrutiny: on a technical level, there is nothing in the Northern Ireland agreement that that contradicts any rules or laws. And of course, there are clearly special needs in Northern Ireland that may justify additional spending. However, there are a few reasons why … Read more