Shared or united island? The Greens called it right.

The new banter coalition in the Republic has got off to a dramatic start. Ministerial sackings! A tax ruling from the ECJ! Infighting! It’s everything we could have hoped for. Among the chaos of this week came an interesting titbit from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. According to Ryan our own Clare Bailey, the party leader in Northern Ireland, was behind the decision to rename the ‘united island’ unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to the ‘shared island’ unit. …

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Emma De Souza: a solution?

As we drift through another week in lockdown, it’s hard to believe that there’s anything else to discuss apart from Coronavirus. Thankfully, Northern Ireland’s unique brand of identity politics stops for no pandemic. Cast your mind back to last year and the case of Emma De Souza. I wrote about it here. Mrs De Souza’s case concerns Article 1(vi) of the British-Irish Agreement. That section states that the two governments recognise the right of: ‘…..the people of Northern Ireland to …

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This Strangely Misfiring Tory Campaign Just Makes Me Wonder

This is a very strange election campaign from the Conservatives. The Tory messaging for the final week is all wrong. My browser is full of Tory ads calling on me to “Get Brexit Done” when everyone knows Boris is all about that; if anything, they risk alienating the key group of Remainers who voted Tory in 2017. The Tories are currently hanging on to just five-eighths of these voters, and any further slippage could be fatal. As far as potential …

Read more…This Strangely Misfiring Tory Campaign Just Makes Me Wonder

Stormont Consent-what does it mean?

Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson 30 days to submit alternative proposals to replace the backstop. After a long wait (where it was speculated that the Prime Minister would merely amend the Withdrawal Agreement with tip-ex) the UK Government has finally submitted its plans. Spanning seven pages, Johnson’s proposals are a mis-mash of different ideas. All the hits you know and love are back. Remember Max Fac? It’s there. Nostalgic for Customs checks? Want a border down the Irish Sea? The …

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This isn’t a coup. We should still be concerned and angry.

Boris Johnson set off a political earthquake when he asked the Queen to prorogue parliament on the 28th August. There have been huge protests in London. Opposition MPs are demanding meetings with the Queen. The Speaker has issued a statement calling Johnson’s decision a “a constitutional outrage.” Many people will be cheering Boris Johnson on. Others will be frightened and scared at what lies ahead. It’s the reason why many are referring to the current situation as a coup. When …

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What would a Festival of Britain and Northern Ireland say? “Politics and ceremonial are not separate subjects, the one serious, the other superficial. Ritual.. is itself a type of power”

Ulster 71 Exhibition BBC Image  The headline quote is from David Cannadine in “Rituals of Royalty etc..”  in “Traditional Societies”, ed. Cannadine and Simon Price, CAP 1987 p3, quoted by Gillian McIntosh (below)  Anniversaries like death and taxes are always with us. Perhaps they’re even sent to challenge  us.  Politicians are tempted to lay on  bread and circuses to show up the better face of things. Could it really work for Brexit?  The Irish Times believes not. The paper has …

Read more…What would a Festival of Britain and Northern Ireland say? “Politics and ceremonial are not separate subjects, the one serious, the other superficial. Ritual.. is itself a type of power”

Brexit Woes and a Broken Parliament: The Perilous Path Ahead for British Democracy

Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement has been rejected multiple times in Parliament. The EU says it can’t be re-negotiated, but that’s beside the point. Despite two series of indicative votes, MPs refused to back any alternative version of Brexit. There also wasn’t enough support for a no-deal Brexit, nor for revoking Article 50 to cancel Brexit altogether. In other words, Parliament rejected all the options available. There were none left. Even those who oppose the withdrawal agreement cannot fairly blame it …

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Future Ireland: Where Can The North Thrive?

For some masochistic reason, I feel umbilically connected to the soil and the soul of this island. Especially this messed up northern corner of it. But there is no point in drawing borders in the soil, and driving flags into it, when it only has 60 more years of harvests left to give. It occurred to me recently that the best case scenario for Northern Ireland, as things stand, is to have a mediocre Brexit, for Stormont to limp back, for orange …

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The postwar ID requirement between Northern Ireland and Great Britain

Reading through some old Wikipedia articles pointed me to an interesting exchange in the House of Commons, back in 1948. Ulster Unionist MPs Conolly Gage and Major Samuel Gillmor Haughton rose during an adjournment debate to complain about the requirement for a permit or passport to be presented for travel between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Mr Gage opens by highlighting the inconvenience of this arrangement : As everyone knows, Ulster is as much a part of …

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Ruth Davidson’s breath of fresh air

Ruth Davidson, the leader of the reviving Scottish Conservatives, is a Tory of a different hue from the stereotype. The Unherd website she has written for has attracted the attention of the mainstream media. You don’t have to be a conservative  to feel  the hint of a breath of fresh air blowing through our troubled politics and to hope against hope  for a read across the North Channel.  This is how to think about politics.   Extracts The consensus surrounding …

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Shock horror EXCLUSIVE! MI5 had Jeremy Corbyn under surveillance into the 1990s, for “links to the IRA”

Billed as  “Exclusive, MI5”, the Daily Telegraph  splashes with a predictable twist on an ancient theme, that Jeremy Corbyn had been under surveillance for having “ links” to the IRA. This is the flip side of the super-patriotic  coin that supports army veterans in their campaign, backed by Theresa May, against prosecutions for illegal actions in Northern Ireland and now supported by the Commons Defence Select Committee. It’s so much easier than thinking to take sides and leave it at …

Read more…Shock horror EXCLUSIVE! MI5 had Jeremy Corbyn under surveillance into the 1990s, for “links to the IRA”

Theresa May’s local victories are good for the Union cause but give no comfort to special status fans

  A note of caution is needed about  talk of a Tory landslide on 8 June. Although UKIP was obliterated in the GB local elections,  Labour might have done even worse. Michael Thrasher’s projections of the local results to the general election “ for a bit of fun” on Sky News   works out a majority of  48 seats, up a respectable 36 but well short of a landslide and barely worth  the trouble of calling a snap election. John Curtice, election …

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How will Ireland square the circle of close relations with Brexit Britain and continuing loyalty to the EU?

An Irish government official said to me a few weeks ago: “ we’re with the other guys now.” That arresting comment  meant that Ireland was making a necessary shift further away from Britain and towards the continuing relationship with the EU. A binary choice  is in prospect, goes the argument, depending on the Brexit outcomes. There was a certain amount of whistling bravado in the remark  – perhaps belied  by the Irish government’s intense efforts with its continuing EU partners …

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Where now for Scotland?

In an historic and stirring address to Seanad Éireann this week, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon refused to set out a timeline for when she might ask the Scottish people to vote once again on Independence. She repeated her view that the Scottish people had not voted to stay within a United Kingdon outside of the European Union and that the Scottish people’s decision to overwhelming vote in favour of remaining in the EU could not be ignored. Immediately after …

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After Greece – where now for Cameron’s negotiating?

Donald Tusk has improved his English lately, which may have something to do with his employing of an Ulster-born speech-writer. The former Prime Minister of Poland took-over from Herman “damp-rag” Van Rompuy as the President of the Council of the EU last year, this was the job once sought by Tony Blair, but no British candidate had been in the picture this time around. Tusk made an executive decision in the early hours of last Sunday morning to cancel the …

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EU Referendum: Is this a chance to break Nationalist malaise?

It was one of the main developments that people took away from the General Election and that was the decline in the Nationalist vote. It is true that no matter how much Sinn Fein and the SDLP attempt to kid themselves to the contrary, Unionism has it seems stemmed the tide of apathy and now it is Nationalist politicians who are now feeling the pinch of a shrinking voter base. Is there an issue that Nationalists could possibly attach themselves …

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Look over there…a view of the UK election from Ireland

I have never made a secret of the fact that I am no expert on politics outside of Ireland.  I watch elections in other countries in a disinterested fashion.  The systems are strange and I find it gives you an insight into just how bizarre politics can look when you are not involved.  The UK election is probably the most interesting one in my lifetime.  Up until now all I have ever seen is a strange and undemocratic voting system …

Read more…Look over there…a view of the UK election from Ireland

Mr Cameron, The Tories & ‘compassionate’ conservatism: compelled to justify neoliberal politics at #ge2015?

As the 2015 British general election campaign gathers momentum, the prospect of a hung parliament looms large. Concerning Scotland, the 2014 Scottish Referendum may have produced a result that was to the satisfaction of supporters of the ‘no’ campaign, but the Scottish National Party’s subsequent rise as an extremely decisive contender in national-level politics could be described as the seminal consequence of #Indyref. Irrespective of the ultimate election result, the SNP, led by the articulate Nicola Sturgeon, is definitely set …

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Two centuries on, how Special has this Relationship been?

It must rank as one of the most spectacular early Christmas presents ever.  Exactly two hundred years ago, representatives of the British and American governments met in the Flemish city of Ghent to agree a Peace Treaty, ending the increasingly-misnamed War of 1812.  OK, it did not mean that all the fighting was yet over: the two countries’ armies would meet in one final battle in New Orleans just over two weeks later, in which the Americans comprehensively thrashed their …

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Essay: Gough Whitlam and the fragility of parliamentary democracy

However over-quoted a historical figure he may be, Winston Churchill certainly gave his global audience plenty to ponder over whenever he opened his mouth or put pen to paper.  His dictum that ‘democracy is the worst form of government, except for the all the other forms that have been tried’ still strikes ringing chords, five decades after his demise.  Then again, he also said that ‘The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter’, though whether …

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