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

Why now is the time for voting rights outside the Irish state in Presidential Elections

Áras an Uachtaráin - residence of the Irish President, and soon to be home to Northern Irish bees

Professor Colin Harvey is professor of human rights at the school of law in Queens University Belfast. Mark Bassett is a barrister in independent practice. They made a joint presentation to the Oireachtas GFA committee on the 18th May 2017. 1. Non-resident voting rights raise important questions concerning equal citizenship. This includes Irish citizens in Northern Ireland. The relatively modest proposal of an extended franchise for Presidential elections received overwhelming support at the Constitutional Convention in 2013. There also appears … Read more

Be grateful for small mercies & scandals

This week in the Seanad we held a thorough debate on the current situation in Northern Ireland ahead of the upcoming Assembly Elections and the many challenges that lie ahead Beginning with an address by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan TD, where he laid out the Irish Government’s role and responsibilities, the House covered the many issues that will be debated with a serious focus on the major difficulties posed to the whole island by the UK’s decision to … Read more

Foster hits a Good Friday Agreement nerve…

Another string to add to the First Minister’s bow. By proceeding with today’s statement to the Assembly, without the consent of the deputy First Minister, the First Minister is arguably in breach of the Ministerial Code’s Pledge of Office. This states that she must: “observe the joint nature of the office of First Minister and deputy First Minister.” By making a speech unagreed by McGuinness the First Minister has undermined the jointery of the Executive office and the principle of … Read more

There is no threat to the Union. Irish bickering north and south over the reality of Brexit has to be replaced with practical cooperation, fast.

Newton’s latest observations on the “curmudgeonly” Arlene can be counterpointed with an incredibly wise article in the Indo by Brendan Keenan, Belfast born and bred but long anchored in Dublin and with a strong sense of reality for the interests of both. Arlene’s dour comments  can be contrasted  unfavourably  with the regal visionary style of Nicola Sturgeon. But Arlene doesn’t have the field of  government to herself. In practice they are both pragmatic and when it suits them, even cooperative … Read more

Taoiseach on Border Poll: “There are much more serious issues to deal with in the immediate terms and that is where our focus is.”

Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, was, rightly, quick to dismiss Sinn Féin’s attempted distraction predictably opportunistic call for a border poll following the EU referendum result.  Here’s what she told Radio Ulster listeners “The Good Friday Agreement sets out the conditions under which I am required to call for a border poll – those are when I believe that there’s a reasonable likelihood that there would be a majority for a united Ireland,” [Theresa Villiers] said. “There’s nothing to … Read more

The Digital Border and the Euros

As we approach the vote on 23 June to decide whether or not the UK remains in the European Union, an increasing amount of the discussion has focused on the possibility of the erection of border posts along the boundary between Northern Ireland and the 26 counties should Brexit become a reality. However there’s a very real border on this island already and it’s not been voted on at all. It’s what I call the digital border and as another … Read more

“‘New language’, my arse!”

At his Broken Elbow blog Ed Moloney has some fun with the same Detail report that Brian noted in his recent post – “another important waypoint in SF’s bewildering, extraordinary journey“. I have read this piece several times. It is based on a speech given by SF MEP Matt Carthy and no matter how I hold it – up to the light, sideways, upside down or at various angles – it seems to be saying the same thing: the Good Friday Agreement is … Read more

Martin McGuinness: “We now wait to see if SDLP will stand by the principles of the Good Friday Agreement or follow the UUP into opposition…”

The response of Sinn Féin’s new MLA for Foyle, Martin McGuinness, to being upstaged – at the moment of his re-appointment as Northern Ireland deputy First Minister – by the UUP leader Mike Nesbitt’s announcement that his party had unanimously agreed to go into official opposition in the NI Assembly, betrayed a confused, or forgetful, party lashing out at sceptics, and potential sceptics, alike.  [Nobody puts Baby in the corner… – Ed] From the Sinn Féin press release [added emphasis throughout] Speaking after … Read more

Sinn Féin’s partitionist approach to united Ireland referendum(s)…

… or an attempt to avoid ‘stupid’ questions about the party’s stated commitment to campaign against the fundamental principle of consent – that it is for the people of Northern Ireland to exercise their right of self-determination.  Those are the options from a comparison between the commitments on Irish unity Sinn Féin presented to the people of Ireland in their manifesto for February’s General Election, and the ones presented in the slim-lined version to the people of Northern Ireland ahead of … Read more

The Good Friday Agreement twenty years on – Why can’t we get over the Troubles?

Sometimes an idea for an article just comes along. I was listening to the radio last week and Dermot Nesbitt, one of the Ulster Unionist negotiators of the Good Friday Agreement, was speaking on Nolan about its 18th anniversary. He pointed out that that when he was a young man, the Second World War had ended eighteen years previously and none of his generation thought about it.  Young people were more interested in Beatlemania than the Battle of Britain and … Read more

Ahern: IRA allowed continue to prevent vacuum

Since he left office in 2008, Bertie Ahern rarely ventures into the spotlight or gives any real in-depth comments about Northern Ireland. However, even his most ardent critics would acknowledge his role in bringing about the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreement. Today he as spoken to Fiach Kelly in the Irish Times about the current crisis in Northern Ireland. Kelly gives his introduction; Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said it was envisaged the Provisional IRA would continue to exist … Read more

Corrymeela celebrates its 50th birthday with Aperture festival to mark common ground & difference

Few people realise that the origins of the Corrymeela Community can be traced not to the start of the Troubles – Corrymeela was actually set up before the Troubles in 1965 – but to Ray Davey’s experiences during the Second World War. The horror and suffering of Dresden impressed upon him the futility of war, violence and division. [historian and playwright Philip Orr] The Corrymeela Community is celebrating its 50th birthday by throwing open the doors at its Ballycastle centre … Read more

New British Bill of Rights would alter the Good Friday Agreement

The new Conservative government appears to be moving fast to  enact a new  British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act of 1998 which is one of the cornerstones of the Good Friday Agreement. Tory dislike of the HRA has nothing to do with the Agreement. Indeed as so often happens, Northern Ireland doesn’t figure in their thoughts.  The Conservatives are targeting decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg which in their view makes it too … Read more

Jonathan Powell: The Lessons of Northern Ireland

Following the launch of his new book ‘Talking to Terrorists,” former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell, writes exclusively for Slugger about the lessions he learned from his time working on the Northern Ireland peace process The Northern Ireland negotiations were the most difficult and frustrating challenge I faced in my life, but also, at least in retrospect, my most important and satisfying achievement. Since leaving government I have set up an NGO, Inter Mediate, to … Read more

#uniref: what are mechanics of a border poll?

In today’s Belfast Telegraph, Liam Clarke is reporting on an opinion poll that says that a majority of people want a referendum on a border called. David has already sketched out some ideas of what a Yes campaign might look like, but what are the actual mechanics of holding such a referendum? The calling of a referendum is described in Annex A of the Belfast Agreement text (usually called the Good Friday Agreement). In reality, the Belfast Agreement is two … Read more

The North short-changed in Irish language shake up

So yesterday (Thursday) Pobal, the Irish language advocacy group for Northern Ireland, had its critique of the failures of the Stormont Assembly and Executives regarding the Irish language strategy endorsed by no less an organisation than the Council of Europe. But today the cross border body, Foras na Gaeilge, announces the new ‘lead organisations/ceann eagraiochtai’ for the promotion of Irish on an all Ireland basis and none of the NI based organisations, including POBAL, Iontaobhas ULTACH, Forbairt Feirste or Altram … Read more