A warning to Leo from his base on his drift towards Mary Lou and Sinn Fein…

I didn’t get to share this piece from Sarah Carey in The Times, Ireland edition yesterday. It’s a stern warning to Leo Varadkar over his political flirtation with Mary Lou McDonald from a columnist from a committed FG family… The omens indicated something so preposterous and outlandish that I ignored them for too long, but no longer. Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Féin leader, says that she wants to form a coalition government with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Not on … Read more

Poor show halted in its tracks, Nationalists have run out of local heros.

Listening to the EU Withdrawal Bill debate in the House of Commons yesterday, Paul Masterton the newly elected Tory MP for East Renfrewshire gave a hint of what Brexit has done for unionists (even Remainers like Masterton). In leaving the EU, we can deliver hammer blows to nationalism—yes, of the yellow and black variety, but also of a deeper purple variety. Proposals that give succour to nationalists of either hue should not expect to receive my support. I urge Ministers … Read more

No Irish unity to be got from leaning on the idle end of a long handled shovel

Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times has something useful to say on the matter of Sinn Fein’s latest push for a United Ireland. (Remember how we were told last June’s general election was to be a poll on whether to have a border poll?) In particular, this: In the context of Ireland’s future, 50 per cent + 1 is not, as Adams claims, “what democracy is about”. That kind of crude, tribal majoritarianism is precisely what the Belfast Agreement is … Read more

If Republicanism is running out of road, doesn’t it need a new narrative roadmap?

As we get closer to family holidays, it gets harder to find anything coherent to write about when it comes to Northern Irish politics.[Columnists have to write to earn a dollar, you don’t! – Ed] Some are taking a quiet Twelfth as a good sign for the autumn. But as Steven Agnew pointed out at the John Hewitt Summer School, all urgency is draining from a set of talks with the ever expandable deadlines. That could make a restart unlikely. However … Read more

Sinn Fein’s tactical playbook does not include what to do if unionists play generous and smart

So Brexit, eh?  How’s that going for you? Will it affect your vote? Or is it business as usual? Signs are from England that since it is still impossible to define what Brexit looks like the strong Remain position the Lib Dems took isn’t paying off well for them. In Scotland, the whole thing is being run aggressively as an anti-SNP/anti-#ScotRef referendum. The SNP is protected by the ongoing weakness of Scottish Labour, yet those who predicted the Tories were … Read more

“Sinn Féin are the last people in the world to be able to reconcile with unionism…”

Today’s must read is from Denis Bradley in the Irish News today. It’s an almost soulful piece on the late deputy First Minister and the final act of his career.  After a particularly acute take on that famous quote of Enoch Powell’s as to how all political careers end, he recalls: The press conference, at which McGuinness outlined his intention to resign, was dramatic in political terms and even more so in the revelation of the seriousness of his illness. The … Read more

If no one wants a hard border, who on earth is going to give us one?

Hard to know which of Newton Emerson’s Thursday columns to blog each week, but I think the one in the Irish News carries a couple of important points that some have been (deliberately?) blinding themselves to. First, he points out that there is no party integral to these talks who wants a hard border of the sort being hyped at the moment: At the end of last week, the prospect of a hard border in Ireland suddenly receded, with the European Parliament and Council … Read more

“But what if this is just more terrible negotiating?”

Newton Emerson has clearly been doing some thinking about the future beyond the Hokey Cokey of the last few months. In yesterday’s Irish News column he makes two seminal points about SF’s strategy (or lack of it). Firstly, SF as a good negotiator. It seems to have escaped the notice of the press (but not I suspect of some of their former SpAds), that SF has a tendency to come up empty handed from encounters with the DUP. [What, not … Read more

McGuinness’s transformation from violent brigand to civic leader will be a hard act to follow

By way of a quick round up on reactions yesterday, I’ll start with my own thoughts on the Irish Times Inside Politics podcast above. Personally, I liked what I encountered of him, but then the only Martin McGuinness I knew was the public peacemaker. The accounts we’ve been hearing describe two different people, each as seemingly authentic as the other: a Janus-faced soldier-cum-broker of peace. But Mary Lou is right to suggest he hadn’t changed much: he always moved in … Read more

“Wolfe, Russell and McCracken did not found a society for a united Ireland, but a society of United Irishmen…”

Seneca once wrote in his Letters from a Stoic: “enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.” There have been fewer moments when the old Roman philosopher, statesman, and dramatist was more relevant to the politics of Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein’s recent and significant gains on political unionism has given rise to a slew of journalists (and others) who create an impression that they are just looking at the issue for the very first time: touting solutions which … Read more

Whatever the parties say the post #AE17 dissolution is no stepping stone to a united Ireland…

With the plethora of positive comment in that direction, you’d certainly think was already coming in the post. It’s certainly good to get the subject out on the table (even if the party politics of it obscures more than it reveals of the subject). It’s good to know Fianna Fail is working on a 12 point plan (although the proper time to judge the worthiness of any such plan will come when they actually release it).  The something in the … Read more

“…it should never be forgotten that a genuinely united Ireland must be based on a free union of those living in Ireland”

The strength of positive feeling towards the economist TK Whitaker in the Irish press was extraordinary. I want to come back to that later in the week, since there may still be important lessons to draw on from the manner in which he approached matters. But, in the context of this election to nowhere we’re enduring right now, this snippet from Eoghan Harris on Whitaker’s background role with the Irish government at the outbreak of the Troubles is worth putting into … Read more

A unified island will require a strategic and open handed approach, not the offer of cheap British-lite trinkets…

Sinn Fein’s policy document has had what many must have thought was an unusually fair wind from our resident bloggers. Not that I’m trying to undercut any of those critiques, but for realism’s sake it’s worth noting this important caveat from Alex Kane: What they don’t acknowledge is that Irish unity kills off unionism as both a political and electoral force, because their country (Northern Ireland) and the constitutional identity and basis of their citizenship (the Union) would disappear. And … Read more

Adams still grappling with a paradox that has eluded Ireland since Redmond and Carson…

The other day a unionist friend joked about the fact that one of the shared attributes to both communities in Northern Ireland is a shared animosity towards England. His favourite jibe to Republican colleagues is “how bad must you be, if we prefer the English to you?” Ronan O’Brien who was an adviser in the last Irish government argues that there’s a useful comparison to be made between Gerry Adams’ accurate argument that unification depends on making the Republic more … Read more

Perhaps it is no surprise that people are not fixated on constitutional issues…

You can almost hear the conversation between the Government Spin Doctors on Wednesday afternoon… “It’s only a pointless TV poll about the North… Who cares? No one in the South knows who Stephen Nolan is. Let’s send out Jimmy Deenihan… sure, what harm can he do…” To be fair to MoS Jimmy Deenihan his “No, really” reply to the question if the Republic could afford Northern Ireland if there was unity tomorrow has not done any real or lasting harm. … Read more

1916 Rising and getting beyond the commodification of remembrance [Redux]…

So the decade of commemorations? Remember that? So far it has turned out to be little more than a damp squib. The reason for that may lie in the fact that it was originally framed by an Irish government which is no longer in power, and at a time when money and resources were less of an object than in these times of austerity. One of the governing ideas of this decade was to begin to look for island wide … Read more

A tentative answer to the question: “what does Fianna Fail stand for?”

So miles away from the talk of pacts and sectarian games last Friday, East Galway Colm Keaveney, the former Irish Labour Party Chair who has been one of the few movers across to the Fianna Fail whip in the Dail, had an interesting grilling from NewsTalk’s Sean Moncrieff in Galway: It takes a while to get started but this section in particular caught caught my ear, not least because it has been one of the few lucid public attempts by … Read more

Nation building in Ireland entails a job of stitching rather than an unstitching

Peter Geoghegan had a nice piece comparing and contrasting the constitutional tensions in a range of places across Europe in the Irish Times on Tuesday.. I recommend reading it all, but for our narrow purposes on Slugger, I’d extract this short piece: Ireland was once at the coalface of any prospective European boundary changes. During the cold war, the Border seemed the most likely to shift in Europe. But the post-Berlin Wall thaw coincided with a change in the Northern … Read more

Does our future belong to strategic optimists or endlessly tactical ‘passive aggressionism’?

I was talking to a friend the other day about the latest online craze Candy Crush. His advice was pretty direct: never get involved with any game in which there is no finite end. The trick to Candy Crush, apparently, is that it lures you in at the low skill/easy entry end with a series of compelling short term tactical plays. At the same time the developers keep adding more and more layers at the farther, inaccessible side. This means that no matter how … Read more

Who needs a Border Poll? – Five Potential Futures for NI

We’ve all seen the articles over the last while which offer an exhaustive picture of the political ramifications that an independent Scotland would have on Northern Ireland’s fate. Though interesting, when I read them I have this nagging feeling that the authors are being all too short sighted. Through the science of climatology we know that the earth’s crust is probably just a few harsh words away from crumbling to bits like so much wet cake. How can you even … Read more