Brexit and the border is widening the gap between London and Dublin and depressing further the chances of a return to Stormont

It has started to happen. Will it continue?  Can it be reversed? The politics of Brexit  is openly dividing the UK and Irish governments and further polarising the DUP and Sinn Fein,  making a return to the Executive less likely than ever.  Predictably Brexit is increasingly becoming domesticated as the new big theme  in a revived unionist v nationalist struggle. What’s just happened?  The sequence was best described in a cool- headed column in the Indo by Dan O’Brien, chief … Read more

A crunch on the border is not in Ireland’s interests

“What we want to take off the table, before we even talk about trade, is any idea that there would be a hard Border, a physical Border, or a Border resembling the past . . . Then we’d be happy to move on to phase two.” “The UK insists that the issue cannot be tackled until the EU agrees to move to discussion of phase-two issues. Speaking at Iveagh House on Friday, Boris Johnson echoed Mrs May’s approach. “In order to resolve … Read more

Brexit is in a mess, but not irretrievably

Want to know where we really are on Brexit? In  three words, in a mess. Can we get out of it?   Possibly at the eleventh hour, 10 pm on Friday 19 March 2019, just like the Good Friday Agreement in fact. Nothing  is agreed until everything is agreed. As so often – like the Stormont standoff – the politics look more difficult than the rational solutions. The Irish and British prime ministers profess themselves in the dark about  each others’ … Read more

UK to leave the EU on 29th March 2019 at 11pm

The UK Government has confirmed that it will enshrine the date and time of leaving the EU as Friday 29th March 2019 at 11pm (midnight Central European Time). The BBC reports; Mrs May, in an article in the Telegraph, said the decision to put the date of Brexit “on the front page” of the EU Withdrawal Bill showed the government was determined to see the process through. “Let no-one doubt our determination or question our resolve, Brexit is happening,” she said. … Read more

Real work to restore the Executive has yet to begin. For the public to make an impact, proposals and pressure from the governments are essential

As a comparative outsider I’m struck by how most commentators are obsessed with speculating about political positioning and identity narratives. This has produced numbing negativism and  despair  rather than the energy needed to approach the daunting but practical problem of trying to restore the Executive.  Being case hardened and calloused, they endlessly refine their own explanations for obvious failure. They accept the parameters set by the DUP and SF too readily. To be fair, this is often the default caused by a … Read more

To solve the Catalan crisis, pay homage to Britain

The Catalonian campaign for independence is a phenomenon of our times,  like the Scottish. They both claim they are ancient entities enjoying sufficient cohesion to go it alone and find their own balance between globalisation (the great big world now closer to all of us than ever) and self sufficiency ( provided it comes under the safety blanket of the EU).  They seem to think they deserve as of right, easy acquiescence and the blessing of a good deal from … Read more

Belfast man sentenced in Germany for 1996 Provisional IRA attack on army barracks

A timely lesson from the German authorities on dealing with Northern Ireland legacy issues…  Having successfully extradited 48-year-old James Anthony Oliver Corry from the Republic of Ireland in December last year, the Belfast man has now been convicted and sentenced for his role in the Provisional IRA mortar attack on a British army barracks near Osnabrück, Germany, in June 1996. From the Irish Times report A Northern Ireland man has been convicted in Germany of attempted murder for participating in an IRA attack on a British army barracks in the … Read more

Catalonia – “Propaganda thrives in a crisis.”

Guardian columnist Natalie Nougayrède is hoping for a Pedro Almodóvar inspired ending to the wild, dark comedy that characterises the current impasse between Catalonia and the rest of Spain.  From the Guardian article However, the 1 October referendum was hardly a model of sound, democratic expression. Only a minority of Catalans took part (turnout was 43%), and its organisation ran counter to Catalonia’s own legislation. The two laws that led to it were voted through without the two-thirds majority the Catalan charter (the Estatut) requires for … Read more

A cautious welcome for Bombardier’s apparent rescue

While  the news about Bombardier is very welcome, a note of caution is also due. Boeing is not taking it lying down. Again, though Bombardier are saying that  a new C-series production line in Alabama means  expansion of   C-series production as a whole,  there are bound to be fears  that  Bombardier/Airbus  may eventually switch some  production  to Alabama  at the expense of  Belfast if sales forecasts don’t materialise. However the Chinese are said to be interested in the project. And … Read more

More delay over a return to the Assembly needs challenging by the two governments

So  the target date for either direct rule  or an agreement to revive the Executive has slipped  for  another week at least. What a surprise!   We were told by the two governments yet again that ” progress” had been made, but this has been slapped down by the DUP. Sinn Fein’s agenda as far as I know it is not inherently unfeasible. The problem is that it’s Sinn Fein who’s running with it.  Crafty old Gerry for false-footing the DUP?  Or … Read more

The Camino; the origins of the EU idea?

It seems far-fetched, risible even, yet some experts claim the Camino de Santiago de Compostella is the origin of the European Union project. The argument goes that the pilgrims of the Middle-Ages who tramped across the many Pilgrim Ways that coalesce in the City of Santiago, north-west Spain, brought tolerance of differences and a focus on a common goal; a road that eventually led to the idea of a united Europe. Pilgrim’s objectives were spiritual, religious and off course selfish. … Read more

Message to the EU: Ireland’s economic interests are as important as the peace process

Irish Times Brussels correspondent Patrick Smyth demolishes the option of a border down the Irish Sea – not just because the UK government and the unionists won’t have it – but because it is against the economic interests of the Republic.  This assessment follows the leaking of a report by the Office of the Irish Revenue Commissioners saying that an invisible border on the island is “impossible”. “It is probably somewhat naive to believe that a new and entirely unique … Read more

Whatever its flaws, the British way of doing things has lessons for Spain

In an article in the Guardian prescribing on the Catalonian crisis, Gerry Adams strives to put himself on the right side of history and apply lessons from our own peace process. Thus far, the Spanish government is refusing to open a dialogue without the Catalans acquiescing to preconditions, including an acceptance that any talk of independence is illegal under Spanish law. In a conversation I had on Thursday evening with the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, he assured me that the … Read more

“One of the things the independence movement hates most is that left-leaning people are against them…”

With the separatist Catalan government claiming that 90%, of 43% of the electorate, voted for independence, and ahead of a week of further uncertainty for all of Spain, the BBC’s Patrick Jackson gives a voice to some young Catalan Spaniards – some of whose views may, or may not, sound familiar…  ANYhoo… Here’s a lengthy excerpt from the BBC report. “We feel Catalan and Spanish and I’m not going to allow independence supporters to take my culture away,” says David. … Read more

Leo Varadkar needs to stand up to the Franco-German axis for Ireland and the small nations of the European Union

Since it became clear that Angela Merkel would be re-elected as German Chancellor, there has been a re-focused approach to tax harmonisation within the European Union, driven mostly by Emmanuel Macron’s France, along with Germany. This has been covered by numerous media outlets and there is little I can add to the conversation. The argument is that France and Germany who are now both stable and revitalised after momentous national elections, will look to readjust the balance of Europe. It … Read more

Lessons from the Brexit debacle for our Executive debacle

On 10th April next year, familiar political figures and dignitaries (some with slightly less unscathed reputations than others) will gather in Belfast to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. Northern Ireland is already in the middle of a veritable feast of commemorations, all of which illustrate the entanglement of its history with major events across these islands and beyond: the 700th anniversary of Edward the Bruce’s campaign, the centenaries of the Easter Rising and the Battle … Read more

Ending Brexit deadlock over financial contributions hinges on a transition deal

The Irish Times is trumpeting “ breakthrough” in the Brexit talks over guaranteeing to preserve free movement of all European Union citizens between Ireland and Britain. But the headline oversells the overall story which dwells on the absence of breakthrough. .  In truth ” free movement  for EU citizens”  was bound to be the result for the future of the Common Travel Area  although the British have been making a meal of it and should have agreed it months ago, to start … Read more

Coveney “Continued membership of this Customs Union and Single Market,or something very like it, is the answer”

The Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney addressed the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce this morning about Brexit and some of the British government proposals.   In his remarks he urged the UK to remain in the Single Market; Simply put, EU Member States will not countenance a partnership which allows the UK to benefit from full EU access while cutting separate deals with countries that don’t share our standards or systems. And that has obvious implications on this island. For … Read more

The EU as much as the British, should not use the Irish border as a a pawn in the Brexit negotiations, and must move on

Fintan O’Toole has been treating us to splendid summer of seminal articles that give the lie to the idea of a silly season. Today he offers the thought that in an echo of the old Churchill phrase, the parishes of Fermanagh and Tyrone are unravelling Brexit. While the image draws us in, it is also slightly forced. I’ve just returned from a break in Fermanagh which included a visit down the Marble Arch Caves.  The system, if not the section … Read more