The UK and Ireland are closing in on a border solution

The FT hopefully leads:  “Ireland backs Theresa May’s plan for all-UK customs union with the UK”. The story is jointly by-lined by their political editor at Conservative party conference in Birmingham and their Ireland correspondent. She will offer to meet the EU half way on the vexed issue of the Irish backstop, agreeing to Brussels’ demands that Northern Ireland stay part of the single market regulatory area of the bloc. But, in return, she wants the EU to concede to … Read more

The Good Friday Agreement: A Milestone, not the Finish Line

Twenty years on since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and it is now being called into question, but not for the right reasons. The agreement’s fitness for purpose has been challenged in recent weeks as it is perceived as standing in the way of the hard Brexit that some desire. Rather than question the agreement because Northern Ireland is currently without an assembly or because even whilst there was an assembly in place its legislative record was pitiful, … Read more

Lessons from the Brexit debacle for our Executive debacle

On 10th April next year, familiar political figures and dignitaries (some with slightly less unscathed reputations than others) will gather in Belfast to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. Northern Ireland is already in the middle of a veritable feast of commemorations, all of which illustrate the entanglement of its history with major events across these islands and beyond: the 700th anniversary of Edward the Bruce’s campaign, the centenaries of the Easter Rising and the Battle … Read more

And so the focus shifts…

And we’re back in Belfast with the main parties and their negotiations. The final deadline is Thursday, but substantial agreement is expected today. The DUP have obtained a deal that is extremely good for infrastructure, bringing things into the possible that were recently all but pipe dreams, although you may excuse my cynicism that the money made available for health is tinkering at the edges (will it be yet another “if you’re going to do this damn silly thing, don’t do it … Read more

MLAs – they work for you

I’m not sure where to start. I remember an election in May 2016, which allowed hope to flourish. There was an attempt at grown up politics with an opposition and everything. And then it all imploded. RHI scandal, the Irish Language act….I don’t know what the final trigger was. Perhaps it was just the general incompetence that seemed to manifest itself (note – I do know it wasn’t the media’s fault despite the DUP’s view. We have some outstanding reporters … Read more

No reason why the Assembly cannot hire in talent if the parties cannot form a workable Executive

As Soapbox recently suggested (20 January), “There is no reason for the Assembly to not be operational, just because the Executive cannot function.” Soapbox was suggesting that “direct rule ministers should be held accountable by a working Assembly.” However, there is another option, which is for the Assembly to appoint non-parliamentary ministers. There is no reason why the Assembly cannot hire in talent if the parties cannot form a workable Executive from their own numbers. And if there becomes any … Read more

Unruly politicians disrupt Assembly chamber; police remove 18 members including Ian & Eileen Paisley #20yearrule

EIGHTEEN MEMBERS were removed from the Assembly Chamber at the behest of the Speaker after anti-Sunningdale members refused to move from the Executive’s front benches and disrupted proceedings. A 1974 letter describing events from the Sergeant-at-Arms to the Clerk of the Assembly has now been released.

Soapbox: Arlene Foster Was Never a Suitable First Minister

The exclusion motion on Arlene Foster focussed on the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal.  I would argue, however, that Mrs Foster has a track record beyond RHI that shows she was never suitable to be our First Minister. The potential £250m clean-up costs highlighted in 2013 by the Mills Report into illegal waste dumping in Northern Ireland I believe can be traced back to Arlene Foster’s decision when Environment Minister, not to create an independent Environmental Protection Agency (iEPA).  In … Read more

Opposition to focus on Agriculture, Rural Schools and Poverty

Tomorrow is an Opposition Day at Stormont with the UUP/SDLP parties deciding to focus on EU funding for the Agricultural Sector, Rural Schools and Poverty. Here are the motions they are set to debate; Motion: EU Funding for the Agricultural Sector That this Assembly notes with concern the risks to multiple streams of funding posed by withdrawal from the European Union; further notes that over 70 per cent of all European funding to Northern Ireland falls under the Common Agricultural … Read more

#SluggerReport on Stormont: “Suspect too much sweet-talk, but never close your mind.”

Well, Slugger hears that the SDLP parliamentary meeting takes place today at 4pm, so it may be that Brian gets his wish in the timely manner he may be hoping for. We’ll really have to wait and see what precisely emerges. As Brian notes, Newton Emerson has a particularly useful piece in the Irish Times today, in which he notes: …yet suddenly Stormont is transformed. In a matter of days, opposition has gone from a potential mutation in mandatory coalition … Read more

Arlene tells the BBC she will have final say over where parties sit…

Update on the idea of changing the seating arrangements to accommodate the Opposition, Arlene Foster has just said in an interview on Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra that she won the election and no one is moving their spot in the chamber. Though I think the last word on the actual positioning of Opposition and government will come down to the new Speaker and his office, Robin Newton. Mike Nesbitt will expand on the idea in Inside Politics after 6pm on Radio Ulster this … Read more

Our View: You Have A Voice, Make Sure It’s Heard Tomorrow

Ballot Box

DECISION TIME: It’s not often on this site that we feel the need to put up an editorial view. Generally because the editorial team on this site have diverse political views and even if we tried it would be difficult for any consensus to last longer than five minutes, today is an exception however.

A question of chairmanship

A wee Sunday thought. Under d’Hondt, and specifically section 18 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the DUP is due to be asked to nominate the new minister for Regional Development when the Assembly reconvenes after the summer break. The current chairperson of the Committee for Regional Development is Trevor Clarke, in succession to Jimmy Spratt.  Section 29(5) of the same Act says that “in making a selection under the provision made by virtue of subsection (2)(a), a nominating officer … Read more

Abortion pressure continues slowly, slowly

Two interesting blasts from non-natives in the abortion debate have appeared in – can you guess?  Yes! –  in the Guardian and the Independent. In the Indy, London-based Siobhan Fenton has been combing the statistics just out, to find that  that 828 women who had abortions in England and Wales  last year gave Northern Ireland addresses and 3754  were recorded as coming from the Republic. Almost certainly these figures are an underestimate, the real NI figure being around 2000, according … Read more

A re-energised John McCallister on expenses, his Assembly and Executive Reform Bill, and the role of independents

John McCallister may be ex-UUP and ex-NI21, but he’s not planning to be ex-politics. I spoke to the South Down independent unionist late last week. He’s rebuilding his profile and perhaps also his reputation after been seen as the person who pulled the plug on NI21 a day or two before the May 2014 elections. On top of “a fairly hefty workload of constituency work” he’s ploughing effort into a Private Members Bill to address Assembly and Executive Reform. After … Read more

McBride: “our clarion call is lucid and compelling: ‘Make It Work’!”

With the threat of Stormont collapsing gaining more headlines in our papers, a group called Make it Work has emerged to pressure civil society into engaging positively with the political process. Writing for Slugger, Peter McBride, Chair of ‘Make It Work’ argues for a positive approach towards our devolved administration. Why would we have to mount a campaign to make this place work? That sums up the challenge perfectly – it isn’t working. Our politicians have made enormous progress since … Read more

…this long rumoured Assembly collapse…

Over in New York, Gerry Adams has just issued a statement on the current impasse over welfare cuts in the Assembly (as reported by Liam Clarke). According to the report, Sinn Féin will let the Assembly fall and trigger an election rather than implement the cuts and Gerry Adams said: “It isn’t that we want an election but if some of the parties in the North are going to follow this agenda, then let them bring it on to the … Read more

UUP-Has Northern Ireland’s ‘grand old party’ finally past its sell by date?

Last week I did an analysis of the decline in the SDLP’s electoral support since 1998. In the piece, I questioned whether the party had a future if it continued losing voters. A lot of these same problems affect the Ulster Unionist Party. This party which founded the Northern Ireland state had led every single government that the province had until 2007. Indeed, it is hard to the think that Ian Paisley was the first leader of our provincial administration who did … Read more