The extra £1 billion promised to the DUP is still a card to play in the renewed party talks

Because of the DUP’s pact with the Conservatives, Nationalists chose to believe that the DUP have the Conservative government in their pocket and write off the secretary of state as an impartial mediator. But Sam Coates, the Times correspondent with arguably the closest contacts with the Tories,  throws a  different light  to reveal a much more complicated  relationship. Relations between the DUP and the Tories are under increasing strain amid uncertainty over when the £1 billion promised as part of … Read more

In future struggles, unionists need to be both right and attractive…

On the day Sammy Wilson rightly apologises for his use of highly inappropriate language about An Taoiseach, Newton Emerson makes a vital point to unionism in his Irish News column… …the way City Hall operates is the way Stormont would operate without the petition of concern. Whoever could make common cause with the unaligned bloc, now including the Greens and occasional socialists as well as Alliance, would win the day. There was a timely demonstration of this last September when … Read more

A new round of Stormont talks can succeed only if they focus on the need to govern. And British-Irish passivity must end

The local media are reporting po-faced that another “last chance” round of talks about restoring the Executive is about to begin. The interesting fact is that all five Assembly parties will be invited. Other than that, further comment seems redundant for now. The replies will be pored over for clues about any shifts of position. Nothing has emerged so far about the chairing role, neutral, mediating or steered, and whether the two governments or one of them will present any … Read more

Belfast to retain its four Westminster seats in new Boundary changes…

Good work from David Young, of the Press Association… BREAKING – Belfast set to retain 4 electoral constituencies as part of major revisions to proposals to redraw boundaries in NI, according to a Boundary Commission map obtained by @PA – new map radically different to politically contentious 2016 plan to cut seats from 18 to 17. pic.twitter.com/CxzVCYjeKH — David Young (@DavidYoungPA) January 17, 2018 …the revised map that was accessible on the Commission website on Monday is significantly different. Belfast … Read more

Arlene Foster spoke no empty words. The road to renewed cross community cooperation may run through Dublin and Brussels

Arlene Foster’s demarche surely marks a truce or even peace  between the Irish government and the DUP in the squabbles over Brexit. It will also  consolidate Dublin’s  improving  relations with Westminster. All this is welcome. Neither wants a hard land border on the island or trade barriers between the Republic and Great Britain. It was just that Dublin’s priority was elevating no hard border to a position of veto over the UK government’s whole strategy, while the DUP had a … Read more

” Change should not be allowed to weaken the relationships so painstakingly put together across these British Isles. “

DUP Leader Rt. Hon. Arlene Foster MLA speaking at the inaugural Killarney Economic Conference this morning. Whilst the referendum was a vote by the British people, the ripples that flow from the referendum result will be far reaching with long-term implications for people well beyond the shores of the United Kingdom.  And I appreciate and understand that nowhere will be more impacted by the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union than Ireland.  I grew up only a few miles from … Read more

“As with the hardest essay questions, there is no right answer but many wrong ones.”

Writing in the Guardian, “former Downing Street Brexit spokesperson”, Matthew O’Toole [no relation – Ed] has some intelligent, and interesting, things to say about “the psychology of imagined identity” here, and the task facing the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, as well as the UK Prime Minister in the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. [Definitely no relation! – Ed] From the Guardian article As Bradley will discover, Brexit has unsettled one of the most intangible but … Read more

Crucial court ruling today on Loughinisland report will have a major impact on dealing with the past

Mr Justice McCloskey is due to rule today  on whether the police ombudsman’s  findings of  police collusion in the Loughinisland murders should be quashed. His earlier ruling that the findings  were “ careless, thoughtless and inattentive . . . in . . . language and structuring” and “quite unacceptable by any standard” was greeted with satisfaction by the retired police officers’ association which had brought the action,  but dismay among human rights activists and not least, the Loughinisland  relatives. Belief … Read more

What are we to make of the expert opinion that British intelligence reports of the past are being withheld for reasons that are ” increasingly random?”

The Guardian’s expert on the history of intelligence Richard Norton Taylor writes the following in an article on intelligence withheld  or released. Documents held back this year include files relating to the Scott inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq affair, a file on allegations of sexual abuse at the Kincora boys’ home in Belfast which the former army information officer Colin Wallace said were covered up by MI5, and a file on the late Brian Nelson, a British army informer in Northern Ireland eventually jailed for … Read more

“This isn’t an issue about the mayor, the mayor was using his democratic right to use that casting vote…”

So says the Derry and Strabane District Sinn Féin Councillor Eric McGinley, a party colleague of the mayor in question, Sinn Féin Councillor, Maolíosa McHugh.  The Sinn Féin mayor had previously declined to meet Prince Charles when he visited County Londonderry last year to meet victims of flooding.  In his place, representing the office of the mayor, SDLP councillor John Boyle, the deputy mayor of Derry and Strabane, accompanied Prince Charles during the visit. The reason for the Sinn Féin statement defending … Read more

Karen Bradley appointed new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

As the BBC report, the UK Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, MP, has been appointed as the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by Prime Minister Theresa May replacing James Brokenshire – who resigned today due to ill health. Karen Bradley MP becomes Secretary of State for Northern Ireland #CabinetReshuffle pic.twitter.com/5TbHJJRI1h — UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) January 8, 2018 Adds  From the BBC report Mrs Bradley, 47, has been the MP for Staffordshire Moorlands since May 2010, and became a Home … Read more

James Brokenshire resigns as Northern Ireland Secretary…

News that James Brokenshire is resigning on grounds of ill health… BBC reports “It’s understood he requires surgery soon for a lung condition”. Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

The death of Peter Sutherland robs us of a key bridge builder between the UK the EU and Ireland

Peter Sutherland who has died aged 71, was an Irishman  bigger internationally  than any Briton of his time.

Read moreThe death of Peter Sutherland robs us of a key bridge builder between the UK the EU and Ireland

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

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

New Books for the New Year from Ó Tuama; Deeds and McManus

With a New Year comes new beginnings – or so the tyranny of the New Year’s Resolutions industry would have us believe. Resolutions can be a source of frustration rather than liberation, but there are few among us who do not give at least some pause for thought on how we might live better in the year ahead. Two new books by some of our most gifted local Christian writers provide tools for living better in the New Year: Daily … Read more

1988: Home Office leaves NI emergency team in dark as satellite falls to earth #20YearRule

While there was a flurry of activity to plan for the unlikely event of a Russian satellite crash-landed on Northern Ireland soil in 1988, the alerting procedures failed and the NI emergency planning heard the ‘all clear’ on the midnight radio news when London colleagues failed to notify them that the satellite had missed the UK and they could stand their staff down.

“Any political party that vetoes the re-establishment of the Northern Assembly until further human rights are recognised (or not) is putting the cart before the horse.”

As Newton Emerson pointed out in Saturday’s Irish News, Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, and erstwhile “father of an all singing, all dancing Northern Ireland Human Rights Bill“, Professor Brice Dickson, has had something to say about ‘red lines’ and a ‘rights-based’ society.  From the Irish News article Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, Prof Brice Dickson, has penned a robust article in the Irish Times explaining that the Stormont talks issues Sinn Féin is describing as “rights” are … Read more

“The truth remains that Adams will only reveal his past if it suits his own agenda.”

We might never know the truth about the suggestion that Gerry Adams was responsible, directly or indirectly, for setting up the Provisional IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade for ambush as they tried to blow up a police station in Loughgall in May 1987.  Sinn Féin have dismissed the claims as “utter nonsense”, and some of the usual suspects have busied themselves playing the man – and/or the media. Meanwhile, Ed Moloney provides some useful background, and reproduces the chapter in his book ‘A Secret … Read more

Government recalcitrance over refugee resettlement in early 1990s #20YearRule

Between 1989 and 1992, local civil servants responded to two requests for Northern Ireland to offer accommodation for refugees from two regions of the world: Vietnam and the former Yugoslavia. In the second instance, the internal response lacked enthusiasm with officials unwilling to state publicly that they were willing to accept in families to NI as part of the UK-wide programme.

1991: Negotiating a Strand 2 talks venue + complaints that Paisley was locked out of his toilet #20YearRule

One single buff-coloured file, three or four inches thick, contains the stapled minutes of NIO meetings with political parties in May 1991 as they negotiated about the strand one, two and three talks. While perhaps the single most frustrating file I’ve flicked through in PRONI over the last couple of years, the level of detail in the civil service minutes of meetings is incredible, and the retention of humorous asides provides a lot of colour about the characters involved and their relationships.