Lecture – Rory Montgomery: ‘The Good Friday Agreement and a United Ireland’

The former Irish ambassador to the EU, Rory Montgomery, delivered his inaugural lecture as honorary professor of practice at the QUB Mitchell Institute on Tuesday evening. His topic – The Good Friday Agreement and a United Ireland – had a contemporary feel as the civic conversation intensifies around whether to and how to hold border polls. The 45 minute lecture was followed by half an hour of questions from the audience moderated by Professor Christopher McCrudden.  While Belfast Agreement …

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A border poll can be held at any time – redux

With border polls remaining a major topic of conversation, particularly following today’s Sunday Times/Lucid Talk reporting of a poll which found that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland wish a border poll to be held within the next five years, I still find that there remain widespread misconceptions around the Secretary of State’s powers to call a border poll. In particular, people still seem to think that the Secretary of State has no discretionary power to call a border …

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Singing Struggle and Agreement – watch back to hear the GFA in song and a panel as part of Slugger’s contribution to #BIAF20

Register online to watch and listen to ‘Singing Struggle and Agreement’ tonight at 7.30pm as part of Belfast International Arts Festival. Slugger O’Toole has partnered with Spark Opera to stage the NI/ROI première of Clare Salters’ ‘Good Friday Agreement – p E A C E in 4/4 time’ alongside musical of struggle and a panel discussion looking back at the Belfast Agreement negotiations with Mark Devenport, Monica McWilliams and Kate Guelke.

Singing the (Good Friday) Agreement: peace in 4/4 time … only at the Imagine! Belfast Festival (POSTPONED)

SLUGGER EVENT. We’ve implemented it, ignored it and extended it, but never before in Northern Ireland has it been sung! But on the opening night of Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics, you can settle down in Accidental Theatre to hear singers from Spark Opera perform the local première of a choral setting of the Declaration of Support at the start of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement text, written by former NIO official Clare Salters. But don’t worry, we know that “singing the d’Hondt formula would just be weird”! Alongside the music will be a politician discussing what it was like to be inside the talks in Castle Buildings and as well as a journalist who anchored hours and hours of the rolling late-night TV coverage that accompanied the negotiations. An evening of nostalgia and reflection.

‘The Good Friday Agreement’ by Siobhán Fenton: a reminder of the sheer scale of the mountain still to be climbed

This very readable, thoughtful book reminds us of the sheer scale of the mountain still to be climbed in Northern Ireland. More worryingly, though, it left me with the feeling (although that may be more to do with my professional cynicism than with Fenton’s own belief) that we haven’t a hope in hell of getting much beyond first base on the mountain.

Happy birthday Agreement. May you be brought back to health and may you take us all on the road to peace and reconciliation once again…

Twenty years ago this month my wife and I had a child- our first child. As all parents are, we were absolutely jubilant at the birth of our son. Wow! We had created this wonderful, if fragile, thing together! We adored (and still adore) him. A year or so later, I got a call to my work to say that my son was ill. He had a tummy bug and was vomiting. I was asked to come and get him …

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Clinton: “Keep the cranes up. Keep the voices free. Keep the votes fair. You’ll figure it out.” #GFA20

Political leaders of old and today gathered at Queen’s University, Belfast for a day of events focussed on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said that people “should realise that this agreement was never going to support all the problems of Northern Ireland” while former US President Bill Clinton had a triptych of advice for NI: “Keep the cranes up. Keep the voices free. Keep the votes fair. You’ll figure it out.”

A Further Shore (Lyric Theatre) #GFA20

A nuanced and at times moving medley of spoken word and song remembrance of past times, incidents and ways of living during the Troubles, gradually working up to the negotiations and the 1998 Agreement. Not so balanced to become boring, but carefully seeded with surprise and honesty in the many perspectives it opened up.

Evaluating the Peace

Seán Brennan, from QUB, evaluates the state of our current peace… As the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement (GFA) approaches, much talk will focus on celebrating or condemning – in other words evaluating – our ‘peace process’. When evaluating Northern Ireland’s experience of peace, it may surprise some to learn that our experiences are not universally viewed as a success. In fact, it would be fair to say the ‘liberal peace’ – which is what we have …

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Bertie’s separate agenda should include warming Theresa May’s ear about the Human Rights Act

Following in Bertie Ahern footsteps what should the  two governments negotiate about bilaterally as the Brexit talks proceed? In the Irish Times Noel Whelan argues that “ Ireland and UK must renegotiate Belfast Agreement” The EU has been described as a cornerstone of the Belfast Agreement. This is more than just constitutional flannel. The agreement specifically provides, under stand 2, article 17, for the North-South Ministerial Council to facilitate co-operation and co-ordination in EU matters. The council’s remit in this …

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UK Government: “Clearly, any form of joint authority would be incompatible with the consent principle [of the Belfast Agreement].”

A short BBC report points to an interesting exchange today in the House of Lords where the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office and Scotland Office, Lord Dunlop, poured a bucket of cold water on the suggestion that “joint authority” could be an option if the relevant parties fail to form an Executive following the Assembly election in March. From Hansard Lord Lexden (Con): My Lords, this is a grave moment for part of our country—our precious United Kingdom, …

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Northern Ireland High Court rejects Brexit Challenges

As the BBC report notes, the High Court in Belfast has dismissed two judicial review challenges to the way the UK Government intends to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union to trigger withdrawal from the EU. One of the legal challenges, by victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord relied on legal aid.  The other, involving Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Green Party and Alliance MLA David Ford, has been funded, directly or indirectly, as the News Letter reported, by US billionaire Chuck Feeney …

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Soapbox: The shameless fear politics being deployed by the DUP

Jamie Bryson is a well known anti-agreement Loyalist activist with an interest in law, politics and writing. He is author of “My Only Crime Was Loyalty”, an account of his role in the Union Flag protests and his subsequent lengthy and complex criminal trial. In an interview with Danny Morrison from the Andersonstown News just over a month ago, the former Republican prisoner remarked that surely the DUP would say that by Ruth Patterson- and other independents- standing in hotly …

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Soapbox: Respecting the constitutional position endorsed by all the people 1998 is fundamental

Trevor Ringland responds to Chris Donnelly’s proposal to co-opt the Irish Tricolour as the only way of resolving the raft of flag disputes. He argues that the issues left unresolved by the longest period of sustained political violence in Irish history cannot be addressed by returning to old arguments, but by creatively breaking new ground within the terms of the historic Belfast Agreement.

UUP leaving the executive: anti agreement unionism for slow learners

So the UUP have finally done something exciting and left the Executive (or at least will once their own party executive rubber stamps the decision). The internal unionist politics of this: both why it was a politically good idea and the potential ramifications are significant and worth a separate blog (which I may get to at some point). For the meantime, however, looking from a pan unionist point of view why this matters is also important. There have always been …

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