Bluff or confrontation is the looming choice, as pressures mount over the NI Protocol

Over the Protocol, somebody’s bluff will be called over the next few weeks. But whose? If he’s to be believed Jeffrey Donaldson has just announced that if the EU doesn’t concede the abolition of most inspections at the ports, the DUP will quit the Assembly. The immediate withdrawal of DUP ministers from north-south bodies except over Covid liaison is the warning shot across the bows. Donaldson’s threats deliberately coincide with the visit of EU vice president Maroš Šefčovič to address …

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In review: why the abortion debate landed where it landed

To begin with, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 specifically authorises Parliament to make laws for Northern Ireland (Section 5(6)) and, in return, the Northern Ireland Assembly to amend laws made by Parliament to the extent that they affect Northern Ireland, provided that the matter has been “transferred” (devolved – see section 6). In theory, there could be an unending game of ping pong as the Assembly asserts its will and Parliament asserts its sovereignty.  Thus the Sewell convention, which is …

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Assembly Designations: past their use-by date?

David Ford is an Alliance activist in Antrim. He was an MLA for South Antrim 1998 – 2018, Leader of Alliance 2001 – 2016 and Minister of Justice 2010 – 2016. One of the issues which will have to be addressed when the inter-party talks resume is the use (or rather misuse) of the Petition of Concern. I understand that there is a fair degree of agreement, originating from discussions between Alliance, the SDLP and the UUP, on new regulations …

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The implications of Alliance’s successes for how our people are represented and governed can mean win:win all round

Good to see Newton following up the implications of Alliance’s electoral successes From the Irish Times Sinn Féin and the DUP both want to preserve the veto for their own purposes. How sustainable would that be if Alliance doubled its Assembly representation, given it has just doubled its council and European votes? In theory, none of this would break the rules. In practice, it would make designation – a foundation of devolution – look redundant and perverse. Alliance’s breakthrough could …

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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 …

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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, …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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#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 …

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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 …

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

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 …

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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 …

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