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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

Essay: ‘All political careers end in failure’ – the legacy of Enoch Powell

My assumption is that it must have been quite an election.  I can only assume, as I had not even been conceived, let alone born, then, but the contest around the UK had far-reaching implications for both Britain and Ireland.  Polling exactly forty years ago today – barely eight months after the previous general election – resulted in Harold Wilson and the Labour Party being re-elected (though only just), and Tory leader Ted Heath’s political career being effectively over.  Heath … Read more

Cartoon – Brits [values] OUT!

  Of all the ink and wind spilt over Pastorgate, surely Alex Kane has it best (The View, BBC, 29.5.14): “[Peter] Robinson is the leader of unionism in Northern Ireland. His primary job in that role alone is simply to promote the values of a multi-cultural, multi-national state. He makes people living here feel like they’re not quite part of the country and that’s very dangerous.” Brigid Brophy wrote in the Spectator in 1981: “The Northern Irish have indeed made … Read more

The Scottish independence debate goes colourful…

        The Herald on Sunday is the first Scottish newspaper to come out clearly in favour of independence. The front page designed by the artist Alasdair Gray makes quite a splash and the editorial arguments are balanced and reasonable. (The case for independence) seems to us to be a more exciting, imaginative and inspiring proposition than the alternative proposed by the No campaign. That it has been remorselessly negative need not detain us here. Its leaders have told … Read more

“Poll: Scotland on the brink of independence” Time to panic?

For Scotland on Sunday to strike such a headline shows it’s time to panic says the Speccie. “Mr Darling and his allies in Better Together have to wake up to the fact that they have managed to blow a 20-point lead in a few months and the gap between the two sides looks like it is now within the margin of error for polling companies. Not only does the Yes camp have the momentum, it has the foot soldiers on … Read more

After the Visit, the greater epiphany?

What we saw in Windsor Castle this week was a delayed act of official reconciliation that should have taken place fifty years ago but was held up by the Troubles. It was in reality the unfinished business of closing a sequence of turmoil that began over a century ago, whose shadow is finally lifting only now.   Carping like that below fails to recognise that such formalities can only be afforded when the reconciliation they celebrate is safely secured. So what … Read more

Cartoon – The Statesman

Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here:

McGuinness WILL attend events during Pres Higgins state visit to GB

Statement released by Sinn Fein tonight We also seek an agreed, united Ireland which accommodates those who define themselves as British. It is within this context that I can confirm that deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will accept an invitation to attend all events as part of the State visit. This decision by a confident republican leadership is in keeping with the transition that is ongoing within the island of Ireland and between Ireland, including the North, and Britain. There … Read more

The Maze is part of a shared past

Malachi O’Doherty is magnificently right.  The best result for the Maze project would have been/ still should be  to provide  an unsparing and comprehensive account of the Troubles, murders, conspiracies and weasel politics, including the narratives without which it is a meaningless recitation of horror. Conflict resolution could come in the last gallery just before the shop.  What a powerful statement it would be coming from the post-Agreement generation of parties and what avenues it would open for collective cognitive therapy. … Read more