Fine Gael’s constitutional sloppiness over the institutions of the GFA rooted in domestic concerns?

20130410 GFA 15

One of the effects of the poor networking of knowledge we’re getting at the moment is easily seen in the poor conceptual grasp, first of all, Sinn Fein and latterly Fine Gael, has on the institutional architecture. No matter how many times they repeat it, the BIIC cannot replace Stormont. Newton puts them straight… Last November, when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar first proposed reconvening the conference to address the Stormont crisis, he got this crucial detail wrong, telling the Dáil: “If nothing is devolved, … Read more

The next big Brexit issue- the future rights of EU/Irish citizens in the North

Another big Brexit theme has been overshadowed by the border conundrum – the future of citizens’ rights in Northern Ireland.   The contention is  that many of these will go unprotected when the UK withdraws from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the rulings of the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg, a key UK government aim. The Charter has greater force than the non-EU European Convention on Human Rights which is written into UK law as the Human Rights … Read more

It has to be faced. Brexit will happen. The Irish border problem will not stop it

It’s now clear to me that we convinced Remainers must accept that Brexit is going to happen. It will not implode through the weight of its own contradictions. There is no prospect of an alternative government that will halt the process. Yesterday felt like a real turning point.  As a result of yesterday’s agreement on the transition period the EU leaders will ratify on Thursday, the UK will remain within the single market and the customs Union beyond the Leave … Read more

After brinkmanship, agreement on the transition period, but another fudge on the border. The ” backstop” for Northern Ireland remains

Breaking….. I had just filed a piece below headlined “brinkmanship on the border “ when the Irish Times reported that that the British had agreed to accept  a legal  draft text containing  the “ backstop” option 3 on keeping Northern Ireland in alignment with the EU after Brexit as part of transition terms for exiting the Union. RTE also has the story There is a huge provisio. Both sides want a comprehensive final deal that negates any need for special status … Read more

Senior Irish and British figures mark death of Sean O’Callaghan

IRA informer Sean O’Callaghan’s life and legacy will be marked by senior representatives of the British and Irish states on Wednesday. They will be joined by many of his friends in London, where he made his life and from where he gave invaluable advice to David Trimble about how to deal with his former close colleagues in the IRA. The former IRA commander gave the intelligence services in Britain and Ireland vital information about IRA operations and the thinking of … Read more

Dublin not expected to use their “border veto” against a transition deal for the UK

Brexit talks will become more intensive over the next six months and will feature a greater focus in the Irish border, according to the EU side.  This week looks likes providing one of those so-called crunch moments when a key Brexit decision is reached in black and white but with grey edges.  The UK are hoping for agreement on a transition period longer than December 2020 as currently mooted,  during  which the UK would pay full EU budgetary contributions. The … Read more

Taking their seats at Westminster would be a high risk U-turn for Sinn Fein

Noel Whelan  in the Irish Times  today repeats  the case for Sinn Fein to take their seats at Westminster  – but only after a general election for which the end of abstention would be in their manifesto. This differs from the plea by the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee who recently wrote that ..the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, ventured to call on the party on Wednesday to take up their six – soon to be seven – Westminster seats “to make things better … Read more

DUP’s advantage through Boundary Commision is largely restorative…

Interesting response from Sinn Fein over the latest boundary changes. Francie Molloy in the Independent writes… Sinn Féin warned at the time that the DUP would attempt to insert this issue into their negotiations with the Tories so it came as little surprise to us that the new proposals were virtually indistinguishable from the DUP’s. The Boundary Commission deny there has been a deliberate gerrymander at the behest of the DUP and stress their independence from political interference. Nevertheless, they … Read more

Beneath the Harp and Crown: Philip Orr Speaks ahead of the Premiere of his new play about UDR Veteran

‘Beneath the Harp and Crown,’ a new play by Philip Orr, premieres next week in four venues. The play was developed in collaboration with Decorum NI, a charity based support group for veterans of the security forces and their families who served during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The play is billed as addressing the question, ‘Can a UDR veteran come to terms with his painful past?’ It is a one-man show performed by Brian Payne. There will be post-show … Read more

No threat to the Good Friday Agreement in sight, but bolder joint action is needed after St Patrick’s Day

Traditionally the St Patrick’s Day pilgrimages to America have been occasions for everybody involved in our politics to be on their best behaviour and bask in waves of Irish-American blarney. Not so much this year, as  Arlene Foster and Mary Lou McDonald have been left off the White House invitees list for failing to clinch the deal to get Stormont going again. But Adams and Paisley jnr are lurking in the wings as  living reminders of past glories compared to … Read more

“A feature of the devolved administration here has been that the two main parties have been sensitive to criticism…”

The BBC reported a telling admission from the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, David Sterling, during the RHI Inquiry yesterday. Mr Sterling said the practice of taking minutes had “lapsed” after devolution when engagement between civil servants and local ministers became much more regular. But he said it was also an attempt to frustrate Freedom of Information requests. Mr Sterling said ministers liked to have a “safe space where they could think the unthinkable and not necessarily have … Read more

Direct Rule in action: “In the light of the ongoing absence of an Executive…”

Northern Ireland Assembly Legislative Consent Motions, required by the UK Parliament to legislate on devolved matters, may have been devalued by the absence of a protest by the then NI Assembly Speaker in March 2015, but the UK Government could at least pretend that one had been passed at that time.  Yesterday there was no such pretence by Steve Brine (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health).  Welcome to Direct Rule… My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Lord O’Shaughnessy) … Read more

Derry’s politicians should stop playing the victim and make more friends and influence people

Steve Bradley’s chastening post on  Derry part 1 is remarkable for its detailed analysis and the volume  of  comment in response -greater I think than for any of the usual subjects I’ve seen in a long time.   Certainly it touches a nerve with me. I left my Derry home to go to school in Coleraine and never lived there again after the fateful year of 1969 when the old order quite suddenly and easily fell apart, an arresting fact its … Read more

Did Religious Leaders Contribute to Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland? Review of Nukhet Sandal’s New Book

Did religious leaders contribute to conflict transformation in Northern Ireland? It’s a question posed in a new book by Nukhet Sandal, assistant professor of political science at Ohio University, USA – and answered with a resounding ‘yes.’ In Religious Leaders and Conflict Transformation: Northern Ireland and Beyond (Cambridge University Press, 2017), Sandal paints an overwhelmingly positive picture of religious leaders’ efforts to contribute to peacebuilding during the Troubles and after the Good Friday Agreement. Sandal argues that religious leaders articulated … Read more

Fewer east-west economic restrictions is more far important than an open border.

Ah, Brexit. My own thoughts have been from the start is that it represents a real and material threat to the economy of the Republic far more than any threat it poses to peace in Northern Ireland. Guardian picture editors may love the agitprop of 1960s style Irish customs, but a good deal on trade and one that offers the UK access to the single market (albeit at a price) would send such lurid scenarios back where they belong: the … Read more

More than the leadership of Arlene Foster it’s about what the DUP under unprecedented pressure, is for

In “Arlene Foster’s authority is ebbing away“, Newton assesses the pressure on  her  in the Irish Times.  His fascinating analysis is  the latest example of local Kremlinology  peering into the suffocatingly tight networks that dominate these little parties.   But new outside elements are at play as never before to supplement rapid change at home , like the unpredictable fallout of Brexit and pressures for social change from London and Dublin. But for these pressures to have full effect, they must … Read more

A way forward – let’s legislate for the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages

As I watched the Nolan show last night, my heart went out to Linda Ervine – a courageous woman pitted against an all male panel and an audience full, it seemed, of antagonistic loyalists who appeared fearful of an Irish language act and what they thought it might do to their identity. It reminded me of the famous Seán Ó Riordáin poem which contained the lines: Dá labhródh bean leat íseal, nach n-ísleofá do ghuth, dá mbeadh an bean réasúnta … Read more

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

“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