New Decade, Same Nonsense

With the four-week circuit breaker due to expire on Friday, people across Northern Ireland are looking for certainty. Businesses need to know if they can re-open at the weekend. Workers want to know if they’ll get an income over the next few weeks. All the while, six of Northern Ireland’s hospitals are at full capacity. As of this morning, the Executive still hasn’t agreed a way forward.  Robin Swann proposed a two-week extension of the circuit breaker but this was …

Read more…New Decade, Same Nonsense

On the doctrine of inevitability

The News Letter had an interesting article a short while back, reporting remarks by Alex Easton in respect of a border poll and the Irish reunification debate. It is not clear in which context he made his comments, but the headline is that he speculates that nationalists will “inevitably” lose a border poll, and recites a few other well-known tropes. I am not a nationalist, but I feel that his comments reflect beliefs prevalent within unionism around how people like me …

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Some thoughts on leadership within Unionism…

When talking about Unionism in Northern Ireland, one of the most frequent issues brought up is leadership. Looking at Sinn Fein, the SDLP, and Alliance, there is an abundance of effective leadership on display with more in reserve if the need arises. Unionism, by contrast, is not experiencing similar fortunes, and this has become an issue. Never before has leadership within Unionism been so problematic, especially during a time that could eventually define Northern Ireland. With a massive appetite for …

Read more…Some thoughts on leadership within Unionism…

NI Executive Office acting unlawfully in delaying introduction of victims compensation scheme

Not unexpectedly, given Mr Justice McAlinden’s comments during the two-day hearing, Belfast High Court has ruled that the NI Executive Office is, indeed, acting unlawfully in failing to implement the victims payment scheme.  Or, rather, the NI deputy First Minister is acting unlawfully… From the summary of judgement [pdf file] It is incumbent upon the Executive Office to forthwith designate a Department under paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 1 to the Victims’ Payments Regulations 2020 to exercise the administrative functions of …

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Northern Ireland Centenary: This country

This is about the centenary of Northern Ireland. But first, a slight detour. In Lucy Caldwell’s, ‘Multitudes,’ one of her characters describes the heartache of watching her teenage school friend move from Northern Ireland to England. “They’ve had enough is what Susan’s mum says. She just can’t take it anymore. ‘This country,’ she says to my mum. ‘This country,’ my mum says back to her, and neither of them says anything else.” The scene has always stuck with me because …

Read more…Northern Ireland Centenary: This country

The obligatory post about the latest Stormont crisis…

ANOTHER crisis at Stormont? I suppose it’s another sign that we are getting back to normality. Plus ça change… I can’t think of anything to say on the issue that you have not heard a million times before, so I will leave it up to you to give your take in the comments. In other news, I see Paddy Raff has gotten himself a new show with the BBC, well done to him. The first post-lockdown pint didn’t go quite …

Read more…The obligatory post about the latest Stormont crisis…

If Unionism is to maintain Northern Ireland’s membership of the UK then it must change and evolve – otherwise, it will become a footnote in a forgotten story…

There is an old joke within Orange circles that goes, if you put 10 Orangemen into a room for 3 hours and task them with putting together a strategy on their lodge’s ambition for the next 10 years, the outcome would be – 15 completely different and contradicting ideas that all must be implemented. The results being 3 people leaving the Orange for good (2 indicating it’s gone soft, 1 citing it’s got too extreme), 3 leave to set up …

Read more…If Unionism is to maintain Northern Ireland’s membership of the UK then it must change and evolve – otherwise, it will become a footnote in a forgotten story…

Stormont has just performed better than Westminster. Signs of a new era dawning for the Northern Ireland Assembly

Social distance voting at Westminster. Just as Westminster makes an ass of itself over voting against digital voting,  Stormont enters a more hopeful new era. It’s  complicated, even tortuous, but that’s a positive virtue compared  to the old familiar choice between deadlock and carve up. Correction I earlier reported the voting wrongly for lack of  information. It  was  even more complicated than I supposed. I’m  indebted to Sam McBride of the Newsletter for explaining how the DUP  and Sinn Fein …

Read more…Stormont has just performed better than Westminster. Signs of a new era dawning for the Northern Ireland Assembly

Unionism needs a Reformation of its own, one that turns it into a movement that is fit for the modern era…

I woke up early on the 9th of June 2017 to tune into the election coverage and see how the new UK government was shaping up. All of the Northern Ireland seats had been decided before I had retired the night before and it had been a reasonably good night for Unionism taking 11 of 18 seats, with the DUP capturing 10 of them. However, when I tuned into the election coverage, I was alarmed to see the DUP included within …

Read more…Unionism needs a Reformation of its own, one that turns it into a movement that is fit for the modern era…

Will the promise of light touch, low regulation for the border in the Irish Sea at our ports be fulfilled?

Larne Harbour If we have to have a border in the Irish Sea it would be great to keep it cheap and simple. That’s the powerful appeal of the British “Attitude to the Northern Ireland Protocol” available here in full. It contrasts with all the  complex thicket of  process in the EU version supported by a chorus of Europhiles.  After all the UK government should know; they will implement it not the EU. It isn’t at all clear how the …

Read more…Will the promise of light touch, low regulation for the border in the Irish Sea at our ports be fulfilled?

Is the coronavirus emergency an excuse not to implement the new abortion regulations?

Are Northern Ireland civil servants and health trusts stalling on implementing abortion regulations passed by Westminster during Stormont’s suspension because of DUP pressure? Perhaps not, they have a lot else on their plate; but it doesn’t look good.  How will GP surgeries react? Will there be a significant number of conscientious objectors to abortion referrals and  prescribing morning after pills? The Executive – wouldn’t you know it – is split. Arlene Foster has made no secret of her opposition but …

Read more…Is the coronavirus emergency an excuse not to implement the new abortion regulations?

From abortion to coronavirus, Westminster rule is still decisive – if they choose to exercise it

The situation is replete with irony.   In the absence of the Assembly a formerly inert Westminster sprung into life to enact three controversial reforms; on same sex marriage, victims’ pensions (pending) and most controversially of all, abortion. Sinn Fein which only acknowledges any legal British authority over Northern Ireland with the greatest reluctance warmly welcomed Westminster’s imposition of the most radical shift possible from the most restrictive to the most sweeping abortion regulations in these islands; while the defenders of …

Read more…From abortion to coronavirus, Westminster rule is still decisive – if they choose to exercise it

Guy Spence resigns from DUP and will retire from Belfast City Council at the end of March

A surprising announcement from Councillor Guy Spence this evening states that he resigned from the DUP on Friday afternoon and will step back from politics and retire from Belfast City Council at the end of March. Aged 19, Spence was first elected to council in May 2011, becoming Deputy Lord Mayor in 2015. Back in April 2015 during the election campaign, his car and home were pelted with eggs. In early 2019, his local party organisation selected former UUP MLA Fred Cobain as the DUP candidate for Castle ahead of the sitting councillor, though the central party subsequently added Spence to the ticket.

A border poll yields pride of place to good government at Stormont. Will the parties get the message?

We’re told it’s the most thorough survey of political attitudes in years                      (what, more than the NI Life and Times surveys?). It shows the graph has tilted over a just a little more in favour of united Ireland, confirming that those who Don’t Know or declined to answer – an  odd description of the middle ground – hold the balance.  I’m caught between concern about growing tension as the day …

Read more…A border poll yields pride of place to good government at Stormont. Will the parties get the message?

In the brave new world outside the EU, the DUP have no survival strategy for the Union

The quivering projection of Big Ben onto the facade of Downing St accompanied by its tinny recorded chimes while the Brexit deliverer skulked inside, said it all. Boris Johnson did not want to be visibly identified with the big moment in case it all goes pear shaped.  In former times retreats on such a scale were the result of war. That’s about best thing that can be said about Brexit; the worst is that it’s heading for a bigger reverse, …

Read more…In the brave new world outside the EU, the DUP have no survival strategy for the Union

#BrexitDay-Nothing but damage

In Jan Carson’s The Fire Starters, there is a quote: “There is never enough silence to contain all our talking…….we continue to believe that across the sea, Europe (and also the world) is holding its breath for the next chapter in our sad story. The world is not waiting.” More than anywhere else in the UK, Brexit shifted the ground beneath Northern Ireland. It threw us down on different sides, sides that were also the battle lines that came before. …

Read more…#BrexitDay-Nothing but damage

We have a piece of paper… it looks like a Stormont deal, tbc

Have we got a deal that the DUP and Sinn Fein sign up to or not? By Thursday midnight, it wasn’t clear. Will all parties turn up to the reconvened Assembly? By the time you read this we should know. In the meantime we have – a document .. But Arlene Foster’s verdict looks favourable.. “On balance we believe there is a basis upon which the Assembly and Executive can re-established in a fair and balanced way… This is not …

Read more…We have a piece of paper… it looks like a Stormont deal, tbc

In 2020, the fate of the Assembly will be one of the simpler issues

In agonising over terms for  recreating a functioning Stormont, the old chestnuts of an Irish Language Act and the petition of concern could be the easy bits – which is one reason why the DUP and Sinn Fein if they have any sense  at all, should grab at a deal. Truth to tell they are still in their comfort zone. Far more difficult issues are looming just a little way down the track. And it’s doubtful if the Assembly parties …

Read more…In 2020, the fate of the Assembly will be one of the simpler issues

Looking forward to an early end to the Stormont deadlock. Christmas cheer, or only a Christmas truce?

How will the parties  “reflect”  on their stance towards Assembly restoration during the Christmas lull? Will it be peace on earth, good will to all or only a Christmas truce? The finger of fate is pointed at the DUP.  Will their resentment spill over into resistance? How dare the secretary of state break precedent and single them out for blame just because all the other parties seem to have supported a deal? Even that is the wrong conclusion because as …

Read more…Looking forward to an early end to the Stormont deadlock. Christmas cheer, or only a Christmas truce?

Slugger TV looks at #GE19

Slugger TV: Episode 33 from Northern Visions NvTv on Vimeo. This month, Chris Donnelly and Alan Meban look at the recent general election. Photo by mounsey is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA David McCannDavid McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs