“I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border…”

Played up is right.  Labour Party front bencher, the shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, a former NIO minister, has apologised for “informal remarks in a meeting last month“, in particular, that his “use of the word ‘shibboleth’ in its sense of ‘password’ or ‘test of membership’ gave the impression that I thought the Good Friday Agreement was in any way outdated or unimportant. I absolutely do not.”  Which is fine.  But his recorded comments, last month, during a Q&A session after a speech … Read more

A noble illusion perhaps, but unity and reconciliation are not compatible

Writing in the Irish Times, Robin Wilson has eloquently identified “a cosmopolitan vista of “unification as reconciliation” among diverse individuals on the island…. as the current Tory government disappears down the Brexit rabbit hole”. Amid fears of a renewed, Brexit-induced hard Border, a plebiscite would be a blunt-instrument (and one-sided) response – less discussion, more sectarian headcount. A more sophisticated approach, less likely to lead to highly unwelcome consequences, would be to redefine the process of north-south co-operation recognised by … Read more

On Prague and its Windows

To read about the history of any great city is to behold a window (of sorts) into the past, but that of the Czech Republic’s capital has boasted arguably more spectacular views than many others. An important political and cultural fulcrum of Central Europe since the Middle Ages, the city certainly has a chequered and eventful heritage, and one that continues to provide drama and incident. Among other developments, Brexiteers on both sides of the Irish Sea are looking to … Read more

“As with the hardest essay questions, there is no right answer but many wrong ones.”

Writing in the Guardian, “former Downing Street Brexit spokesperson”, Matthew O’Toole [no relation – Ed] has some intelligent, and interesting, things to say about “the psychology of imagined identity” here, and the task facing the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, as well as the UK Prime Minister in the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. [Definitely no relation! – Ed] From the Guardian article As Bradley will discover, Brexit has unsettled one of the most intangible but … Read more

PM Tess and Good Queen Bess

Theresa May has made much of being a vicar’s daughter in seeking to build her image. Less remarked on is that she is from a particular sub-tradition within the Church of England, and so deeply formed by it that its particular take on English history will shape how she sees the UK’s relationship with mainland Europe. In thinking about Brexit, she must inevitably perceive echoes of the last time England was so bitterly riven about its identity and destiny, in … Read more

“ambiguity… appears to have led Dublin and Brussels to interpret it as a maximalist position, while the DUP believed or were led to believe that it would or could be minimalist.”

The parlous state of the Brexit negotiations has been generating more than the usual level of idle speculation, and arrant nonsense. [Including on Slugger? – Ed] No names, no pack drill… But there are some intelligent points being made, in some places, which are worth keeping in mind – if you are actually thinking about these things. Like other, usually reliable, observers, The News Letter’s Sam McBride, whilst initially a little puzzled by Monday’s developments, offered a coherent scenario yesterday. … 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

“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

Extradited Suspect Admits Role in 1996 Provisional IRA Mortar Attack in Germany

Unencumbered by the Belfast Agreement, ‘comfort’ letters, or any proposals on legacy issues, German authorities sought and, last year, secured the extradition of  a suspect in the Provisional IRA mortar attack on a British army barracks near Osnabrück, Germany, in June 1996. James Anthony Oliver Albert Corry, from north Belfast, had been arrested in Killorglin, Co Kerry, in October 2015, on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by German authorities. At the start of his trial today in a court in the city … Read more

Happy Bloomsday, intolerable Joyceans everywhere!

If you don’t know by now, it’s tradition!  [We know… – Ed]. Those of a sensitive disposition are duly warned, once again, that James Joyce enjoys the language in all its fecund nuttiness. And a reminder of a brief history of the day, from the Guardian last year, which includes this great 1924 quote from Joyce on Ulysses – “I have to convince myself that I wrote that book. I used to be able to talk intelligently about it.” In June of … Read more

“So let nobody speak of a progressive or anti-Brexit pact either…”

In Saturday’s Irish News, Newton Emerson with some impertinent points about electoral pacts in the forthcoming General Election on June 8.  From the Irish News Sinn Féin has ordered the SDLP to stand down, although sadly not to dump arms, in North Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Let nobody call this a nationalist pact, as that would involve reciprocation and Sinn Féin has not offered to stand down anywhere.  Sinn Féin’s stance is doubly impressive when it risks handing … Read more

Another curious Brexit side effect. Companies may get grants to move jobs out of the UK…

Nestlé has announced that they are to axe 300 UK jobs and move Blue Riband biscuit production to Poland. More than likely this is about cost saving and has nothing to do with Brexit but it does introduce some interesting questions. Under EU rules member countries are not allowed to give subsidies that encourage companies to move jobs from one member state to another. So in the Nestlé example, Poland could not give grants to  Nestlé. You can only grant … Read more

The story of François Fillon’s suits tells you why the French establishment may be facing the guillotine

Assuming you are a conservative minded Catholic would you vote for this man as your natural champion? With only a week before the first round of voting, the revelation by the investigative website Mediapart will further embarrass the conservative candidate, who lost his place as frontrunner in opinion polls after being placed under investigation for allegedly giving his British wife a “fake” job as his parliamentary assistant. Mr Fillon received three suits costing €13,000 from Robert Bourgi, a Franco-Lebanese lawyer, … Read more

Joint authority? “What on earth have you been smoking?”

In the Irish Times Newton Emerson takes issue with two of the talking points being promoted by the SDLP and Sinn Féin – EU ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland and ‘joint authority’.  From the Irish Times Northern nationalism has an alternative to Brexit – special status for the North within the EU. Nobody has a clue what this means but at least Brussels has been asked if it will consider the possibility (it has said no). Northern nationalism also has … Read more

“concepts and terms like “special status” give rise to serious concerns for other EU partners about precedents that might be set elsewhere”

A much needed, for some, lesson in the real politik of negotiations with other EU states, in regard to the UK leaving the EU, from the Irish Government Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, in a Dáil written answer last week. 457.Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the need for a special status for Northern Ireland in view of Brexit has been placed on the agenda and discussed formally at any EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting; and if … Read more

German Police Formally Arrest Extradited Suspect in 1996 Provisional IRA Mortar Attack

Rather less widely reported than developments in certain other legacy cases was Dublin High Court recent ordering of the extradition of a suspect in the Provisional IRA mortar attack on a British army barracks near Osnabrück, Germany, in June 1996. James Anthony Oliver Albert Corry, from north Belfast, was arrested in Killorglin, Co Kerry, in October 2015, on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by German authorities. The Belfast Telegraph has the latest update via a PA report German police have arrested a … Read more

What next after Merkel?

So far this year, we have seen both David Cameron and Matteo Renzi resign as Prime Ministers of the UK and Italy after perusing disastrous ego driven referenda. In France, François Hollande’s popularity has reached a new low and he won’t seek a second term. The last remaining major leader in the EU is longstanding German Chancellor, Angela Merkel; she has declared in recent weeks that she will indeed seek a fourth term in office and lead her centre right … Read more

NI Attorney General: “Article 50 trigger – will ‘amend not a comma or a full stop of the 1998 Act’.”

As with the Belfast High Court, so with the UK Supreme Court…  NI Attorney General John Larkin has been repeating the argument.  From the BBC text coverage from the Supreme Court Northern Ireland’s attorney general, John Larkin, is continuing to make his case that none of the legislative or constitutional arrangements underpinning devolution should stand in the way of the UK government triggering Article 50. The 1998 Northern Ireland Act, which set up the NI Assembly and NI executive, made … Read more

“Return to your cumanns and prepare for Irish unification.”

In the Belfast Telegraph, Eilis O’Hanlon comments on the recent flurry of “displacement activity” from Sinn Féin.  From the Belfast Telegraph article So, what better way to distract the republican home crowd than with some conjurer’s cheap tricks? Don’t look at that hand, look at this one. Don’t mention my ineffectiveness on a range of issues that actually matter, look at all these things I’m saying and doing about something that doesn’t matter in the slightest. It’s not as if … Read more