A Belfast Good Friday – at 24. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes ….

I was randomly shooting the sunset when a family decided to walk back from the sea to the beach, I was just perfectly aligned with them and the golden hour sun. Captured the cute moment where the mother and father were holding hands. They noticed me afterwards and they asked if I had an instagram so they could see my work. We had a little chat and I showed the fresh photo directly on my camera screen, they were really happy with it !I love the tones and how the backlight enhances group.

World events. Too many of them. Their images blur, racing past much too fast to process. Then a pause for thought midst the stalemate of home. And I’m trawling through YouTube clips of John Hume and David Trimble, in a Big Yellow Taxi moment – of not really knowing what you’ve got ’till it’s gone. Lingering over those late nineties snapshots of possibility personified by our Nobel laureates felt like bathing in the warm glow of slightly fading family photographs. …

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By public demand, a new Belfast Agreement is needed to transform our deadlocked politics

As sure as night followed day, the sonorous tributes to David Trimble flowed from those who in their day had stabbed him  front and  back.  Some were no doubt observing the Irish habit of never speaking ill of the recently dead.  Perhaps some rose above hypocrisy.   For behind the traditional political rhetoric lies latent acceptance that they are all inheritors of his legacy. As Trimble himself put it: In 2005 I came a cropper but, in the seven years between …

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Slugger TV looks at polls, politics of COVID and the Good Friday Agreement

David McCann is joined by Allison Morris and Sarah Creighton to discuss the politics of Covid-19 regulations, and the latest LucidTalk poll on party preferences. You can turn on subtitles by clicking the CC icon. David McCannDavid McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

The Good Friday Agreement is no longer fit for purpose: can it be reformed?

The moderators on this site have, for a while, been expressing opinions about a lack of unionist voices in the blogs, so I thought to chip in and contribute my own proverbial two cents from a moderate but conservative-minded Ulster Unionist perspective. This is my first time so forgive me if it’s rough around the edges… Firstly, a bit about me; I am a social and economic conservative and long-time UUP supporter in the vein of O’Neill and Faulkner, in …

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Lecture – Rory Montgomery: ‘The Good Friday Agreement and a United Ireland’

The former Irish ambassador to the EU, Rory Montgomery, delivered his inaugural lecture as honorary professor of practice at the QUB Mitchell Institute on Tuesday evening. His topic – The Good Friday Agreement and a United Ireland – had a contemporary feel as the civic conversation intensifies around whether to and how to hold border polls. The 45 minute lecture was followed by half an hour of questions from the audience moderated by Professor Christopher McCrudden.  While Belfast Agreement …

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A border poll can be held at any time – redux

With border polls remaining a major topic of conversation, particularly following today’s Sunday Times/Lucid Talk reporting of a poll which found that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland wish a border poll to be held within the next five years, I still find that there remain widespread misconceptions around the Secretary of State’s powers to call a border poll. In particular, people still seem to think that the Secretary of State has no discretionary power to call a border …

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Singing Struggle and Agreement – watch back to hear the GFA in song and a panel as part of Slugger’s contribution to #BIAF20

Register online to watch and listen to ‘Singing Struggle and Agreement’ tonight at 7.30pm as part of Belfast International Arts Festival. Slugger O’Toole has partnered with Spark Opera to stage the NI/ROI première of Clare Salters’ ‘Good Friday Agreement – p E A C E in 4/4 time’ alongside musical of struggle and a panel discussion looking back at the Belfast Agreement negotiations with Mark Devenport, Monica McWilliams and Kate Guelke.

Putting a trans-border university at the heart of the Shared Island agenda – The regenerative role of a local university

With plans to form a Shared Island unit in the Taoiseach’s Office there will be opportunities for Dublin’s new coalition government to select a number of flagship projects that can form part of a transformative legacy. One that can contribute significantly to the re-imagination of our island is a trans-border university in the North West. The region could lead the way in both pedagogical and ecological innovation as we prepare to ‘Build Back Better’ to address the impacts of both …

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John Hume: A Story Not Yet Fully Told

John Hume chose to live with purpose. He was steadfast in his determination to see peace and a better life, not only for those from his own community, but for all people across the island of Ireland. Elected a Member of the European Parliament in 1979, he would go on to serve as MP for Foyle from 1983 to 2005, and member of the Legislative Assembly for the same constituency between 1998 and 2000. He defined future generations opportunities when …

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Victory for the de Souzas and for Irish citizens’ immigration rights: a battle that should never have needed to be fought

Yet another example of ignorance of Northern Ireland affairs in different parts of the UK government. Derry born Emma de Souza has won her three year battle to allow her American husband Jake to live with her, an Irish citizen in Northern Ireland, without having to renounce her birthright as a British citizen which she doesn’t want to exercise. She wants to bring him in under EU therefore Irish not UK immigration laws. Her victory is a triumph of principle …

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Emma De Souza: a solution?

As we drift through another week in lockdown, it’s hard to believe that there’s anything else to discuss apart from Coronavirus. Thankfully, Northern Ireland’s unique brand of identity politics stops for no pandemic. Cast your mind back to last year and the case of Emma De Souza. I wrote about it here. Mrs De Souza’s case concerns Article 1(vi) of the British-Irish Agreement. That section states that the two governments recognise the right of: ‘…..the people of Northern Ireland to …

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Singing the (Good Friday) Agreement: peace in 4/4 time … only at the Imagine! Belfast Festival (POSTPONED)

SLUGGER EVENT. We’ve implemented it, ignored it and extended it, but never before in Northern Ireland has it been sung! But on the opening night of Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics, you can settle down in Accidental Theatre to hear singers from Spark Opera perform the local première of a choral setting of the Declaration of Support at the start of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement text, written by former NIO official Clare Salters. But don’t worry, we know that “singing the d’Hondt formula would just be weird”! Alongside the music will be a politician discussing what it was like to be inside the talks in Castle Buildings and as well as a journalist who anchored hours and hours of the rolling late-night TV coverage that accompanied the negotiations. An evening of nostalgia and reflection.

Rewarding the centre: Positive-sum, cross-community politics

James Devlin is a postgraduate researcher at NUI Galway. The recent general election results were marked by the high positive swing to the Alliance party. Alliance were rewarded with one seat, came within 2000 votes of a second, and increased their share of the vote by approximately 10%, including in areas where they have previously struggled. In doing so, Alliance affirmed their performance in the recent European elections, confirming a general swing in Northern Ireland towards the centre, driven by …

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Expand ‘community planning’ and focus on wellbeing, urges McGinley

Community planning provides a model that builds on the tradition of the “very strong community spirit that prevailed in Northern Ireland” during the Troubles, argues Aideen McGinley in the latest Forward Trust podcast.  McGinley is a trustee of Carnegie UK, co-chair of its embedding wellbeing project in Northern Ireland and a former senior civil servant. Aideen stresses that we need to be positive rather than fearful as we look to the future.  “The bottom line is that people do not …

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Unionist concerns and fears of a united Ireland: where are the women?

Another day, another report into a united Ireland. This time Senator Mark Daly has published his findings on, ‘Unionist Concerns and fears of a United Ireland.’ The report is based on a recommendation given to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Daly’s research contains writings and submissions from unionist political figures such as Mike Nesbitt, Kyle Paisley and Trevor Ringland. Dr James Wilson, at the request of Senator Daly, also conducted focus groups with …

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‘Social integration begins with integrated education and integrated housing’

For Northern Ireland to become more integrated, there has to be a greater focus on integrated schools and integrated housing, argues the chief executive of the Integrated Education Fund, Tina Merron.  She was interviewed for the latest Forward Together podcast. “I think the majority of people in Northern Ireland want a shared future and a united community,” says Tina. “We need to give civil society more of a say. We need to encourage people to speak up and especially young …

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‘A stronger role for civic society must be central to getting government back’

International peace negotiator John McKinney has urged the political parties to include a stronger role for civic society in a reformed structure of governance for Northern Ireland.  John – a former chief executive of the Special EU Programmes Body and of Omagh District Council – was speaking in the latest Forward Together podcast. Asked how civil society in Northern Ireland should be strengthened, John says: “I don’t think we have a framework adequate to do it.  I think we had …

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‘Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past! (But we are.)’

Northern Ireland is “a society that is still emerging from conflict”, warns Conal McFeely, chief executive of one of Northern Ireland’s largest and most successful not-for-profit businesses, the Ráth Mór Centre[i] in Derry.  He was interviewed in the latest Forward Together podcast. “We must collectively not allow ourselves to make the same political mistakes – and the failure of governance – that we’ve done in the past,” Conal says, before adding “but sadly I believe that we are at the moment”. …

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‘We have lost ground in the past 20 years’, claims PUP’s John Kyle

Society in Northern Ireland has gone backwards since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, argues the former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party John Kyle, who is also a GP in Belfast. “In my view we have lost ground in the past 20 years,” he says in the latest Forward Together podcast. John believes that we need to review the progress that was achieved and consider why it has lost momentum.  He suggests three factors enabled the conflict to …

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A rights based society? How the UK Home Office is plummeting us into a rights disaster

When did it become acceptable for a government to disregard its duty of care to its citizens? When did the every day abuse of power become normal? We have a government department that is often described as being “a law unto itself” and that is tolerated. Either through apathy, ignorance or acceptance. The “hostile environment” is well publicised, the staggering incompetence documented and regularly reported on. Yet instead of reform or a roll back we are seeing an expansion of …

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