Why the Good Friday Agreement has a future

The Good Friday Agreement has come in for a bit of criticism over the past few days following the failure to reestablish a new Executive. It’s natural, when you are at an impasse to want to review and perhaps chart a new course. However, whilst I share a frustration with the current political situation, I don’t share this idea that we need to abandon the Good Friday Agreement as if it has failed us badly as a society. Writing in … Read more

The draft agreement revealed: So far but yet so near

The cats have been let out of the bag thanks to the sources of Eamonn Mallie and Barney Rowan, (Sinn Fein?). From documents of “a dozen pages or so plus annexes and separate agreements,” we pick up the story below from a week ago last Friday. The secretary of state will no doubt be questioned on the details in a statement on the talks failure  when the Commons resumes tomorrow.  The Sinn Fein leadership will meet Theresa May on Wednesday … Read more

As the 20th anniversary approaches, the contrast is glaring between the commitment and success of the Good Friday Agreement and the neglect and failures of today

Bill and Hillary Clinton may register a no-show at a conference called to commemorate  the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement on 10 April, the Sunday Times reports. Organised by the impressively branded Senator George J Mitchell Institute For Global Peace, Security And Justice at Queens University, the conference line up includes every surviving key figure from the 1998 peace settlement except the incapacitated John Hume.  If Bill and Hillary scratch, Tony Blair may follow suit. And then … Read more

Arlene and Mary Lou are at least explaining themselves. But how much does Stormont matter now?

“tiocfaidh ár lá   Pat Leahy in the Irish Times The extent to which coaxing the DUP back into powersharing is secondary for Sinn Féin was captured perfectly by McDonald’s speech at her ardfheis coronation at the RDS last weekend. If Sinn Féin was primarily concerned with helping Arlene Foster to bring her party back into Stormont then McDonald wouldn’t have rounded off her peroration with that rousing “Tiocfaidh ár lá!”Never mind that it was unscripted; it wasn’t accidental.    Arlene … Read more

London and Dublin must clear their lines for close cooperation on direct rule

Clarity rather than coyness is now needed over moves toward direct rule. Working on its  scope and duration is one more compelling reason for London and Dublin  to stick together.  On Monday at the otherwise disastrous Stormont meeting, Theresa May and Leo Varadkar pledged “to work together on a new plan on how to achieve a frictionless Irish border.” Good luck to them with that. On the continuing local stand-off, two elements are essential. Enough action must be taken to … Read more

The fallout continues………


Today’s developments, starting off with Sinn Fein President, Mary Lou McDonald (I have highlighted key bits); The DUP leader brought this phase of negotiations to a close and said “there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an Executive being formed”. “It is up to Arlene Foster to explain this given that the DUP and Sinn Féin leaderships had achieved an accommodation across the issues involved. “In fact we had a draft agreement by the end of last … Read more

Next time, the governments must not leave it entirely to the DUP and Sinn Fein in secret

It would have been a remarkable feat if the DUP and Sinn Fein could have  struck a deal  in secret, alone and unaided.  Secrecy may be essential for last moves to reach a compromise. But over a year none of the ground had been prepared with the public and it showed. The background was too noisy – RHI, the sudden illness and death of McGuinness, minority governments in London and Dublin with other fish to fry, including monumentally,  the throwback … Read more

Was an Irish Language Act really a bridge too far?

What a week. The DUP Leader, Arlene Foster has brought the curtain down on the current round of talks. It is commonly assumed that selling a stand alone, Irish Language Act is just something that would be a bridge too far for any Unionist leader. However, just taking a stroll down memory lane I wonder is this actually a fair representation of where Unionist voters actually are. Do I think they want an Irish Language Act? No. Would it be … Read more

Arlene’s Valentines Day Massacre

Today could not have turned out any bigger a mess for the incumbent DUP Leader and would-be First Minister. If sources are to be believed the Fermanagh MLA was ready to sign off on a deal which would have seen 3 Bills introduced : An Irish Language Bill An Ulster Scots Bill A Joint Respect Bill What has happened since the weekend to put the Stormont train off the rails? A DUP Group meeting on Monday morning, 3 days of … Read more

For a political deal ever to emerge, mutual ignorance needs to faced and mutual respect observed

Mick has rightly just pointed out how tantalising easy the language issue could be to solve, were it not for the politics that expresses a far deeper  mutual ignorance ( in both senses) than is often recognised and which 20 years of supposed power sharing has failed to reduce.  Politically there must be limits to the management of the voluntary apartheid state we appear to be creating before cohesion collapses altogether.  That moment may not be as far off as … Read more

What would yet send them over the top? Or is it all over?

  While Mick has presented the glass half full argument that Sinn Fein have at least indicated a willingness to return to Stormont, attention is bound to be more focused on hopes dashed or at least seriously  dampened . But there’s  no point in railing against Arlene Foster for  bursting out in public with a negative message against an  Irish Language Act (“however packaged”)  or speculating that   DUP supporters with  Jim Allister perched on their shoulder were  “spooked “ by … Read more

Now we see who’s ‘red (white and blue) lines’ are holding up the show!

It’s becoming increasingly clear that unionist political parties and politicians have set their opposition to an Irish Language Act and, by extension, any form of an Irish identity within ‘British’ NI as a priority ‘red line’ ahead of returning to powersharing or, even, at the most fundamental level aspiring to an equal Union between NI and the rest of the UK. The rhetoric today from Arlene Foster in which she set out what she would not countenance in response to … Read more

Getting a functioning, lasting Executive should be the focus of the debate

Northern Ireland Executive logo

We seem to be getting close to a final deal which will likely see the reformation of the Executive after 400 days without devolved government in Northern Ireland. This is not the first time a collapse has happened, since the implementation of power-sharing in 1974 we have seen more than 4 collapses of an administration for one reason or another. The key question is now trying to make it stick. Any new Executive is going to face major challenges with … Read more

Sceptical, not cynical about “the long drawn out attempt to breathe life back into the Stormont arrangement”

Whilst on Saturday Brian highlighted the question of “the prospect of Sinn Fein’s return to Stormont as Mr Adams’ parting gift”, today Ed Moloney posits another, equally plausible scenario… You know, a cynic might suspect that the whole thing, at least the long drawn out attempt to breathe life back into the Stormont arrangement, was staged or timed so that the breakthrough would happen just when Sinn Fein want to present a new, Adams-free image to the electorate down South, one … Read more

Progress made on forming new Executive but no deal


In from the Sinn Fein President, Mary Lou McDonald “Today Michelle O’Neill, our party chair Declan Kearney and I had the opportunity to meet with both An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and with British Prime Minister Theresa May and we gave them our assessment of the talks so far. “We believe an agreement is possible, an agreement is desirable. “Sinn Féin want the institutions back up and running and we have said very clearly that at this juncture what is required … Read more

Could the DUP handle the return to Stormont as Gerry Adams’ parting gift?

The  papers are at one in running  the story that a Stormont deal may be imminent next week. But  “with more work to be done” the emphasis ranges from glass half full to glass half empty. The Irish News headlines “ speculation quelled as differences remain ” while  Suzanne Breen now bylined as the paper’s  political editor, sticks her neck out  with the quote from “sources” that, “we may not have an agreement within hours but we are potentially on the … Read more

A mockery of a negotiation so far

So “huge differences remain” if you’re the DUP  but “good progress” was made if you’re a novice British minister  reading off the pre-prepared NIO script. What else don’t we know that the political correspondents can’t be bothered to say? The role of the chair is unknown – co-chairs, facilitators or dynamic leaders with a cunning plan ready to view? “We do not negotiate in public” said Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy last week as if for all the world this was … Read more

Could reform of the petition of concern hold the key to surprise success in the Stormont talks?

Following up on Mick’s post on Colum Eastwood, let’s hear it for his SDLP deputy Nichola Mallon who’s called for the reform of the notorious blocking instrument of the petition of concern.  It had been supposedly been agreed in the abortive Fresh Start agreement of November 2015 that it should be used only “in exceptional circumstances,”  stating – importantly –  “the  grounds upon which it is being tabled and the nature of the detriment”.   After which nothing happened. The investigative … Read more

Arlene Foster may be called to court to defend blocking the funding of legacy inquests – a key issue between the DUP and Sinn Fein

With exquisite timing for the renewed political talks, a case of judicial review  in the High Court has resumed which alleges that “former First Minister Arlene Foster unlawfully blocked Executive discussion of a funding plan aimed at clearing a backlog of legacy inquests for purely political reasons.” The charge has lain at her door for almost two years and she may yet be called to court to defend it.   In an earlier session the judge dismissed Mrs Foster’s bid to … Read more

Pressure to resume the responsibilities of government is not a winning card

So how are the prospects for the talks being trailed?   Are three women, Arlene, Michelle and late  joiner Karen are up the creek with Simon but without a paddle? Or will they brave the towering waves of cynicism to ride them out and make it home  to everyone’s  huge surprise? Karen – as we must get used to calling the secretary of state for the time being -, repeats the standard stale brief, that agreement is close if only.. She … Read more