DUP Mayor Paul Hamill speaking Irish ahead of an event.

Amid all the political wrangling over the Irish language -DUP mayor Paul Hamill practises his Irish ahead of event in Newtownabbey @UTVNews pic.twitter.com/EnCxSc2iEf — Judith Hill (@JudeHill_utv) March 14, 2018   Paul Hamill is the Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and just in a contentious debate about the Irish language is refreshing to see this engagement. David McCannDavid McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

“A feature of the devolved administration here has been that the two main parties have been sensitive to criticism…”

The BBC reported a telling admission from the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, David Sterling, during the RHI Inquiry yesterday. Mr Sterling said the practice of taking minutes had “lapsed” after devolution when engagement between civil servants and local ministers became much more regular. But he said it was also an attempt to frustrate Freedom of Information requests. Mr Sterling said ministers liked to have a “safe space where they could think the unthinkable and not necessarily have … Read more

To check Sinn Fein winning the propaganda war, a general amnesty should replace prosecutions in exchange for official disclosure, say unionist legal experts, arguing for the scrapping of the government’s Legacy Bill

“Transitional justice has facilitated republicans turning what ought to have been a hostile environment (namely, the historical record of over 2,000 attributable deaths, almost 60 percent of the total murder count, in a sectarian campaign of assassination and bombings – not to mention the accompanying litany of bloodshed, unblinking cruelty and lives destroyed) into a fertile soil allowing them to sustain a campaign of commemoration on ‘an industrial scale.  (The approach has) saturated thinking about the past to such an … Read more

Lee Reynolds in a race to win beard of Ireland

Remember Lee Reynolds? He used to blog on this site before he went off to work for the DUP. He’s now the DUP Group Leader on Belfast City Council and Director of Policy for the party. On Slugger, we don’t give endorsements to any politicians but we thought since he is leading in the race to win the beard of Ireland that you should give him a vote. The idea of a DUPer winning an all island award is something … Read more

Why cutting MLAs pay may not be a route to salvation

From the BBC; The secretary of state has said she “is minded” to reduce MLA pay, in the wake of the collapse of the Stormont talks. Speaking in the House of Commons, Karen Bradley said the “time is right” to address “concern about MLA pay in the absence of a functioning assembly”. Last December, former assembly Chief Executive Trevor Reaney recommended a cut of 27.5%. Mrs Bradley said she wants to hear from Northern Ireland’s political parties before making a … Read more

Derry’s politicians should stop playing the victim and make more friends and influence people

Steve Bradley’s chastening post on  Derry part 1 is remarkable for its detailed analysis and the volume  of  comment in response -greater I think than for any of the usual subjects I’ve seen in a long time.   Certainly it touches a nerve with me. I left my Derry home to go to school in Coleraine and never lived there again after the fateful year of 1969 when the old order quite suddenly and easily fell apart, an arresting fact its … Read more

£410 million from DUP Deal to come to Northern Ireland

A substantive portion of the DUP Deal agreed with the Conservative government is to arrive. From the BBC; The secretary of state said the allocation from the confidence and supply money includes £80m for health and education pressures. There will also be £30m to support programmes to address issues of mental health and severe deprivation. A further £100m goes to the long-term transformation of the health service. Capital spending for key infrastructure projects will receive a £200m boost. The budget … Read more

More than the leadership of Arlene Foster it’s about what the DUP under unprecedented pressure, is for

In “Arlene Foster’s authority is ebbing away“, Newton assesses the pressure on  her  in the Irish Times.  His fascinating analysis is  the latest example of local Kremlinology  peering into the suffocatingly tight networks that dominate these little parties.   But new outside elements are at play as never before to supplement rapid change at home , like the unpredictable fallout of Brexit and pressures for social change from London and Dublin. But for these pressures to have full effect, they must … Read more

Mrs Foster is in the car but it’s being driven by Nigel Dodds

Interesting analysis piece from the Irish News Political Correspondent, John Manley Even though the consensus suggests the so-called accommodation was a poor deal for republicans, the level of resistance from within the DUP and broader unionism to what was in the proposals appears to have surprised Mrs Foster and her advisors. Since the talks collapsed, the Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA has met the DUP’s ruling executive and she says they have backed her leadership. Arguably that confidence is justified – Mrs … Read more

Brexit battle lines drawn up, or the storm before the calm and other cliches

On the face of it,  the prospects are looking grim again but it may only mean that they’re getting down to business – at last- again. The BBC headlines “Brexit trade talks battle lines drawn.”  And the FT reports  that  the EU –  the  authoritative  Council of the nation states and not just the Commission of bureaucrats –  are taking a hard line for future negotiations with the UK –  slapping down Theresa May’s  supposedly emollient  attempt last week as … Read more

DUP Councillor refuses to engage with Pro-Choice Group

Emma Gallen is an activist for Alliance for Choice. Alliance for Choice had planned to be at several different International Women’s Day events last week. But the snow meant that many were postponed. As a result, a well meaning campaign, asking councillors at Belfast City Council to support Kate Nicholl’s motion to support the decriminalisation of abortion, gained more traction than expected. The debate at City Council was due to be on Thursday March 1st, but was also postponed due … Read more

Brexit latest sees Coveney urging more clarity with Dodds asking for more logic

The Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney appeared on the Andrew Marr Show this morning to speak about his response to Theresa May’s speech on Friday about the UK’s future partnership with the European Union. Some of his remarks are below; “It is a very complex thing for Britain to leave the EU… when you add in a fragile peace process this is a significant responsibility for the British government and I’m glad the PM made that clear in her speech” … Read more

10 years on from Ian Paisley’s departure

10 years ago today, Ian Paisley announced he was resigning was DUP and First Minister. He didn’t officially go until May. Paisley was succeeded by his long time deputy, Peter Robinson. In a rare moment of North-South cooperation, Bertie Ahern stood down as Taoiseach at the same time and was also succeeded by his Finance Minister, Brian Cowen. Here is the story breaking on UTV and his interview with the station Political Editor, Ken Reid   David McCannDavid McCann holds … Read more

The vast, terrifying vista of boundless possibility.

Storm clouds approaching

The slippery slope argument is a well-known logical fallacy for two reasons. Firstly, it is almost universally wrong. Secondly, it is almost universally believed. This is because human beings are innately loss-averse, preferring the certainty of the here and now (however imperfect) to the unknown possibilities of change. It is only when the here and now crosses a significant threshold of imperfection that uncertainty begins to look inviting. The mildly discontented compare the known and the unknown and say “don’t … Read more

Both sides are now playing politics with the border


Theresa May must have been desperate to have signed the joint Report in December. She did so, knowing that it would do little but buy time before the next elemental clash, and focusing on  contradictory positions over the border. The price of a deal would then increase, just like a loan from a money shark. He didn’t force her to take out a loan, now did he? But those are the terms, dear. And so  today’s draft withdrawal Agreement which the EU have just published came as no surprise.

You’ll recall that Arlene Foster finally let May go ahead to sign the Report at the second attempt after  requiring   a cardinal tenet of unionism to be included, that no economic border would  come between NI and GB.  Foster in her statement added the rider that “more work is needed.”  But now she may be ruing the day she was so accommodating, not a position she often holds. For “more work” in DUP terms was never done.   Today Foster could only declare the draft “constitutionally unacceptable and economic catastrophic.”

It turns out those assurances were worth even less than the paper they were written on. As we reported yesterday they’re absent from the final text. This is because they were written off as a mere internal affair between the UK government and the DUP and not a matter for a lofty EU legal document.

.The status recommended for Northern Ireland is bound to raise Unionist and Tory hackles by  removing one of the usual planks of sovereignty, the main trading and border policies,  without seeking permission from the people who live there .  The Brexit cry “Taking back control” rings very hollow here. But in the end they can’t be serious. This draft is Operation Hope Not.

In cold print the EU paper really does remove traditional aspects of sovereignty which in EU parlance was pooled.

Read moreBoth sides are now playing politics with the border

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

If Sinn Féin weaponised the Irish language, the DUP had the power to change that…

The DUP have accused Sinn Féin of weaponising the Irish language. They have used this ‘weaponising’ of the language as one excuse for their refusal to accept the terms of the proposed Irish Language Act and therefore also the reinstating of Northern Ireland’s devolved government. If Sinn Fein have weaponised the Irish language, the DUP had the power to change that. Instead, it remains a Trojan horse that will continue to destroy unionism. With the signing of the Good Friday … Read more

“Northern Ireland to become an EU province” after a Brexit breakdown. Did we not know that already?

Tomorrow the EU will publish its legal version of December’s joint Report or Withdrawal Agreement that was supposed to guarantee against a hard border. The intention is to remove any idea of a fudged   political deal that could be changed later. It  will however become the EU’s law not the UK’s. Britain will argue that Withdrawal Agreement will be superseded as a result of a final free trade agreement. However as has been well trailed,  it will omit the guarantees … Read more

Equality has arrived but the DUP and Sinn Fein have yet to face up to what it means

“Equality” has always been a Sinn Fein buzzword. As the recanted ex- IRA man Shane Paul O’Doherty lethally today quoted Gerry Adams speaking in 2014: “The point is to actually break these bastards – that’s the point. And what’s going to break them is equality … That’s what we need to keep the focus on – that’s the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy is to reach out to people on the basis of equality.” Other views are  un-cynical … Read more

Congratulations are due to the DUP and Sinn Fein negotiators. How can the DUP be persuaded to implement it in their own long term interests?

After rubbing our eyes several times, the first thing  to do about the 13 pages of  the Draft Agreement published  in full by  Eamonn Mallie is to have it recognised for what it claims to be.   As Sinn Fein has already insisted on its authenticity, the initiative now lies with the DUP.  Clearly the document was the hymn sheet the secretary state Karen Bradley was working off in her Commons statement yesterday , although she understandably  refused to publish it, … Read more

Care is needed to stop the wheels coming off the Good Friday Agreement

I suppose it was inevitable. On the fringes of Westminster politics the alignment of Leave with a Brexit Union and Remain with support for the GFA is hardening, as shown in reaction to the failure so far to restore Stormont. This is what happens when people dip into the issues and pull out again. Living with them requires steadiness. Former secretary of state, stout Brexiteer and Shropshire lad Owen Paterson tweets that the GFA “has outlived its use.” Kate Hooey, … Read more