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

After the huge majority in the Republic, all is changed utterly in the North. The Union is more at stake than ever

The scale of the verdict in the Article 8 referendum will create a new surge and a new context in Northern Ireland politics.  While it would be an exaggeration to say that it might even sweep away the entire unionist position if it does not radically change, even that is not inconceivable, if added to the impact of a hard Brexit. NI abortion reform and the risk to the UK government While all bets are off, it would be unwise … Read more

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

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

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

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

#RebootPod: Ireland’s housing problem from a sustainability point of view

#RebootPod podcast is for policy-minded optimists, co-hosted by Dublin-based Rory Hearn and Tony Groves and is focused on seeking solutions, rather than restating old misery. They started with Mick Byrne, who lectures in political economy at UCD and focuses on breaking the negative narrative cycle and looking for sustainable solutions to the housing crisis.

“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

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

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

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

New backstop plan ties the whole UK to the customs union to buy time for solving the border problem

The rumour has now become fact (almost) Britain will tell Brussels it is prepared to stay tied to the customs union beyond 2021 as ministers remain deadlocked over a future deal with the EU, the Telegraph has learned. The Prime Minister’s Brexit war Cabinet earlier this week agreed on a new “backstop” as a last resort to avoid a hard Irish border, having rejected earlier proposals from the European Union. Ministers signed off the plans on Tuesday despite objections from Boris Johnson, the … Read more

May tells Rees Mogg: with a hard border I’d not be confident of winning a border poll

Times report Theresa May confronted Jacob Rees-Mogg at a meeting with Tory MPs designed to break the deadlock over Britain’s future customs arrangements with the EU, The Times has learnt. The pair clashed yesterday over the impact of rival plans on the Irish border, in what witnesses described as the prime minister “sending a tough signal” to hardline Brexiteers that she was not prepared to jeopardise the Union. It came after Mrs May went over the heads of her squabbling cabinet with a personal … Read more

“Statute of Limitations” would subvert the Belfast Agreement’s conditions on Troubles related murder

Tom Kelly on why the statute of limitations cannot be applied one-sidedly. In any case, he says, the provisions of the Belfast Agreement for a two-year sentence is an important mark of justice, which delineates the difference between innocent and guilty: The IRA didn’t act in the name of the Irish people and it justified its campaign with the most tenuous of links to an insurrection tradition from a different era. As a people, we were better at writing romantic laments … Read more

On Brexit we’re about to enter the eye of the storm before the relative calm

It’s the solemn duty of all professional  commentators always to be interesting, even at the expense of consistency with writers in their own paper or even with  themselves.  And this is a terrific time for fascinating chaos and confusion.  Where  official  “lines to take” are  not banal they are tangled up  and  inconsistent,  reflecting  the fact that over Brexit, a chronically divided cabinet are singing like birds. Tension is ramped up before yet another deadline to be missed whether it’s … Read more

Government having trouble dealing with Northern Ireland’s shattered past…

Legacy is not as easy as it seems. My understanding is that without some kind of quasi-legal process which apportions guilt or innocence, it is simply not possible to grant an amnesty for all murders during the Troubles. This piece is telling (among other things, of a poorly briefed minister) of an unbalanced approach to dealing the past… “You just drivel on…I’m asking you a specific question” Watch as Andrew Neil rips into the Govt’s disgraceful hounding of British army veterans … Read more

“To change the riverflow of history”: Constitutional pasts and futures @UCDdublin #GFA20

“To change the riverflow of history”: Constitutional pasts and futures @UCDdublin #GFA20
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
8 May 2018

Political and legal scholars, peacemakers and peacebuilders convened at the Royal Irish Academy to review and discuss potential constitutional relationships between Ireland and the United Kingdom, especially vis-a-vis Northern Ireland and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the import of Brexit.

Read more“To change the riverflow of history”: Constitutional pasts and futures @UCDdublin #GFA20

Peace Journalist • Editor • Writer • Photographer • Peacebuilding a shared Northern Irish society • allan@mrulster.com • www.mrulster.com

Superpatriotic ministers claim bias against soldiers in new Troubles investigations

Update.. May appears to back amnesty for former security forces   At Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday, Mrs May said the issue of a statute of limitations was “very important”. “At its heart, is the support and gratitude that we owe all those who have served in our armed forces,” she said. “The situation we have at the moment is that the only people being investigated for these issues are those in our armed forces or those who served in law enforcement … Read more