If Stormont works on the basis of stoking fear or loathing of the other, is it time for ambitious change?

Some useful thoughts here from Northern Ireland’s one man think tank, Newton Emerson, on the business of how the UUP and SDLP might provide a credible challenge to the new establishment parties of the DUP and Sinn Fein: What really stops the UUP and SDLP offering an alternative is that a Stormont executive must be led by the largest nationalist and unionist parties and there is no guarantee of the “moderates” leading both blocs. If the requirement instead was for … Read more

Foster hits a Good Friday Agreement nerve…

Another string to add to the First Minister’s bow. By proceeding with today’s statement to the Assembly, without the consent of the deputy First Minister, the First Minister is arguably in breach of the Ministerial Code’s Pledge of Office. This states that she must: “observe the joint nature of the office of First Minister and deputy First Minister.” By making a speech unagreed by McGuinness the First Minister has undermined the jointery of the Executive office and the principle of … Read more

“Deputy Gerry Adams says he took notes and that the individual was a friend who knew what happened.”

So, for the sake of completeness on on-going saga of what Gerry Adams knows about the murder of Brian Stack, there was an interesting exchange at Leaders Questions in the Dail today between the Taoiseach and Micheal Martin (VIDEO). When it came to his turn Adams, dismissed Martin’s intervention as an “opportunistic, cynical and contemptible” attempt to undermine his “efforts in good faith to assist the family of Mr. Brian Stack”. Only, of course, that’s not how the Stack family see … Read more

Schrödinger’s Ireland – The current state of Unity, is it alive or dead?

“A United Ireland is Inevitable: Discuss” I went to a debate in Omagh on this topic, hosted by Sinn Féin’s Barry McElduff, with an open mind, willing to be challenged and frankly, looking for a way to understand the rationale behind the United Ireland cause. Most of what I know about partition, the Easter Rising and that era came from a trip to Kilmainham Jail a couple of years ago.  What I do know though is that this happened a long … Read more

ITV leaders’ debate was “UK Politics Unplugged” in cacophonous sound and vision…

So, some quick post election debate thoughts: The sentiment where I was watching was why can’t we have women politicians as articulate and as politically attractive as Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon. Although it was pot luck the Plaid Cymru leader got to perform the takedown on Nigel Farage over foreign HIV patients getting NHS treatment, it was what people will remember her by. Much as the SNP and Plaid gained profile, it comes at the detriment of Carwin Jones … Read more

Ireland – a world innovator in deliberative democracy?

In December 2012 with the creation of the Convention on the Constitution, Ireland became a world innovator in deliberative democracy. Like similar international deliberative forums on constitutional reform (British Columbia, Ontario and the Netherlands) the Convention included randomly selected citizens. However unlike them it also included politicians from both parts of the island. Meeting over the course of 9 week-ends, the Convention concluded its work in March 2014 having made 38 recommendations, 18 of which, it is estimated, will require … Read more

Commons [empty] threat to remove Royal Assent from Prince Charles?

I cannot think this is serious, except as a rhetorical warning across Prince Charles’s bows for not being good constitutional monarch in waiting… The role of the Queen and Prince of Wales in signing off new laws is “arcane and complex” and could be abolished, MPs have said. The Commons’ Political and Constitutional Reform committee warned that the process is “fuelling speculation” that the monarchy has an “undue influence”. The MPs said there is “no evidence” that the law has … Read more

“Scary or liberating, that is the meaning of independence…”

Talking to an English mate the other day he was waxing lyrical about how he’d be glad to get rid Scotland, until I pointed out that that’s a song you could keep singing until there was only London, Kent and the home counties left, at which point you’d be left with a valueless lump of the managerial classes. No lumpenproletariat to fight your wars, for instance? It was just a bit of banter, but there’s a reason loping stuff off … Read more

Icelandic dinosaurs, elections and the fate of their crowd-sourced constitution … and a link to equal marriage

Slugger should take a look at Iceland more often. An article in yesterday’s Guardian described intriguing democratic and constitutional processes. About a third of the North Atlantic island’s population live in the capital city of Reykjavík, another third live in the greater Reykjavík area. Apparently two thirds of the island’s population are on Facebook: Iceland can be a petri dish for democratic ideas, according to the mayor [Jón Gnarr who formed the Best party] … “Reykjavík and Iceland are perfect … Read more

Thoughts on the Monarchy

For a unionist to admit to being less than a wholehearted monarchist is often difficult, especially so during the 60th jubilee. Alex Kane, a unionist and open republican, has a very good analysis during which he almost becomes a pragmatic monarchist. It is worth reading in totality but his main argument centres around the stability the monarchy under the present Queen has helped provide. I have mentioned before that not all unionists are wholly supportive of the monarchy. Personally I … Read more

“Ba cheart do bhunreacht a bheith glé, grinn soiléir soléite…”

Tugann Aonghus faoi dheara go riamh ó cuireadh iallach ar an rialtas a ghlacadh gach conradh a rialaíonn caidreamh na hÉireann leis an Aontas Eorpach isteach leis an mBunreacht, d’fhorbair sé ina cúldoras sa Bhunreacht féin (ceann de roinnt acusan): Ba cheart do bhunreacht a bheith glé, grinn soiléir soléite. Bhí tráth. Níl níos mó. Táimid mar sin spléach ar aos dlí chun meabhair a bheith a bhaint as – rud a chiallaíonn gur gá do saoránach misniúil éigin dul … Read more

UK lacks a ‘broader, stabilising and federalising political project’ (or any defence against Scots Independence)…

Great piece from Lallands Peat Worrier (H/T Phil!) who looks at the dilatory effects of the devolution project on the United Kingdom. And he starts with Salmond’s concept of ‘social union’, or ‘killing the union with kindness’: To move from Union to independence is not, on this theory, the foregoing of ties with England, Wales and North Ireland, but reconstituting those ties on a different, (and nationalists contend) more politically convivial basis. The concern is to “recast the relationship” with … Read more

Economic (Ireland’s or anyone else’s) sovereignty has not existed since Bretton Woods

Eamonn has a whole range if great writers guesting at his blog these days. Among them Maurice Hayes, who makes some fundamental points about Irish politics and the strange relationship that exists between the legislature and the sovereign voice (aka, those bloody referendums): It is not being less democratic than advocates for a referendum to argue that the essence of democratic decision, accountability and transparence, can, on occasion, be better achieved by elected representatives properly informed and mandated than by … Read more

Carwyn Jones looking for a national senate to replace the Lords…

A couple of weeks ago, on the sidelines of the newly revitalised Scottish Question, Carwyn Jones, the Labour leader in the Welsh Assembly made some remarks that have created some ripples in his own back yard: Asked how Wales would fare if Scotland voted for independence, he said: “I think we need to start thinking about this now. “It appears at the moment from the opinion polls that Scotland wouldn’t leave the UK, but how do we make the UK … Read more

Why the Tories are constitutionally all at sea in Scotland

Alex Massie is Scotland’s man in the seried ranks of Tory thinkers in London. He’s not exactly unique, but there are few Unionist commentators who, like him, get a respectful hearing amongst the increasingly confident Scots nationalist blogosphere. In response to a well meaning, but inevitably London bound leader veiw from his own paper the Spectator, he notes: Of course Alex Salmond is beatable and of course support for UN-member independence is a minority enthusiasm. This is one reason why … Read more

Welcome to our new and urbane tribalist politics…

Interesting thoughts from Brian Feeney on Hearts and Minds last night. He pretty much suggested that the two smaller parties had reduced roles in the new dispensation, and they should think themselves lucky to have that much. Interesting because, by and large, it’s true. Why? Because, since the St Andrews Agreement, gaining or keeping the office of First Minister can now be flagged up as the only thing that matters. Theoreticians tell us it doesn’t matter. The voters seem not to agree. … Read more

House of Windsor can claim a role in UK’s future

Interesting commentary on the political and constitutional context for the British Royal Wedding in Westminster from Philip Stephens: “Once she [the Queen] has gone, though, the institution’s long-term survival will depend on whether it manages to adapt to straitened circumstance. Even as they cheer the newlyweds, the monarch’s subjects are contemplating the prospect of many years of economic austerity. George Osborne, the chancellor, says Britain has “maxed out on the national credit card”. It’s a silly, and economically illiterate, phrase. … Read more

Irish schools should be ‘returned’ to the State from Church…

Garret FitzGerald argues that the Republic should return to the status quo from before the state ‘gifted’ a large chunk of the school estate to the Catholic Church: This unique educational structure appears to have remained unchanged under British rule and thereafter until 1971, when over 90 per cent of our primary schools were made integrally Catholic – on the grounds that “the separation of religious and secular instruction into differentiated subject compartments served only to throw the whole educational … Read more

Finalised Twitter hashtags for Election (#AE11) constituencies

Okay, a big thanks to Dee Harvey at BBCNI for her work on these. She’s tested them all now so that there should not be any broken or misleading tweets on the constituency hashtags quoted below. If you are now scratching your heading and asking yourself ‘what’s Fealty on about now’, hashtags are a way of tagging individual ‘tweets’ that instantly transform into searchable terms. It should enable us/you to find tweeted information/data on Twitter than relates to a given … Read more