The long and winding road to dealing with the past stretches ahead at Westminster. Will it turn out to be a dead end?

All Northern Ireland parties and groups including victims are united on one thing. They are opposed to the UK government’s NI Troubles, (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill. Nevertheless the Bill began its long passage to become law – or not –in the House of Lords last Wednesday. The Lords debate presents a good opportunity to air the issues in one place in this lengthy post. A vote will eventually be held on whether to recommend scrapping the Bill entirely or heavily …

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The British and Irish governments mustn’t mess about. Time for Direct Rule by whatever name with Dublin support to tackle the cost of living crisis and move on to Assembly reform

We are teetering on a cliff edge of absurdity about calling an Assembly election “ nobody wants. ” From the DUP viewpoint Peter Robinson brilliantly  describes the contradictions in every party’s position except his own. He might have added that it was Chris Heaton Harris and his cronies in the ERG  who more than any other faction  got us into this trouble in the first place by championing a Withdrawal Agreement with the Protocol attached  under frankly false pretences. The …

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The political class will have to work hard to prevent Northern Ireland coming off worse in the UK government meltdown

As we treasure long memories in this distinguished forum, I offer 1973-4 as  the nearest parallel  to the  meltdown in government  we face today. In the UK as a whole the miner’s strike in 1973 produced power cuts and a three day working week.  Four months into ’74. Northern Ireland suffered its own exclusive version of power cuts all over again in the UWC strike, a loyalist revolt against the first fragile power sharing Executive that had been set up …

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The pennies are dropping: the UK government are starting to face reality over their mini Budget and restoring the Executive

By far the most important immediate question  for Northern Ireland is how to prevent the constitutional question dominating politics even more than before, at the expense of delivering government for  the people.  Apart from  threatening an Assembly election that would only increase instability, the British government has largely disqualified itself from influencing events in favour of a standoff over the Protocol, a problem they had exclusively had created.  Beyond formal courtesies the vital essential relationship  with the Republic went into  …

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Are border poll criteria an excuse for procrastination ?

Peter Kyle, shadow Secretary of State

This morning, on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, Shadow Secretary of State Peter Kyle made some comments during a brief interview with the BBC’s Darran Marshall on the question of the criteria to call a border poll (iplayer : interview begins at approx 18:45) which seems to have generated a frisson of excitement. The salient part of the interview is reproduced below, with my emphasis. DM : I want to talk to you about the constitutional position now. Do you think …

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After the funeral of the age, back to the reality of today

The greatest public obsequies in history are over. The hangover begins now. The death of the Queen allowed millions to think of the nation as a big family which could unite at such a time.  Every nation or a distinct component of it needs an identity to survive.  For a large majority, the Queen was at the heart of it. Whether the unity survives both for the nation and- come to think of it- even the royal family- are quite …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 3 : Can it be weaponised ?

Nuclear explosion mushroom cloud

Following on from my previous articles on how nuclear power works, and why we need to rethink the dangers posed by it, it’s time to talk about the other safety-related concerns that are often raised in the debate about the viability of nuclear power. Can a nuclear power station explode like a nuclear bomb ? What happens if a nuclear power station finds itself in the theatre of military conflict, as is currently happening in Ukraine ? To deal with …

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The enduring question about politics from the start of the Troubles: why has the middle class been so ineffective?

  I’m using my privilege as a poster here  to try to sum up a couple of posts by Frank Schnittger and myself which are about struggling to find meaning in the chaotic and long draw out course of the Troubles. I’d better be careful as this could lead to endless exchanges but I’ll draw the line here. Eventually  we all have more urgent topics to cope with like a rudderless government during an  economic  convulsion. I suppose I was …

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Leave futile arguments about equivalence aside. We all need to come clean about why the Troubles lasted so unforgivably long.

clock, alarm clock, watch

Belatedly I want to pick up from Mick’s treatment of Fionnuala O’ Connor’s   interesting question about origins, prompted by the inevitable controversy surrounding Michelle O’Neill. At the outset, I’m reconciled to the fact that my brief analysis, partly based like Fionnuala’s on contemporary observation, will be disputed. I want to be as fair as I can. There’s nothing more pointless than one sided polemic.   Her question relates to the present and future. To make ‘reconciliation’ possible do republicans have to …

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Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 1 : how it works

It can have escaped few of us that the effects of the war in Ukraine and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside the ongoing issue of climate change, have led to renewed interest in the possibilities offered by nuclear power and how it can help to solve the problems governments around the world are facing. This is leading to a re-evaluation of the case for nuclear, and, hopefully, objective consideration of its strengths and weaknesses. I believe that it …

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On one thing MPs are agreed: the EU need to show greater flexibility. So is the Protocol Bill only “displacement activity?”

The mouse didn’t roar as the House of Commons sent the Protocol Bill on its way yesterday. “Only if enacted” said an uncharacteristically strident Jeffrey Donaldson, would the DUP go back to Stormont, advancing the curious argument that the Protocol Bill would “give back to the elected representatives in Northern Ireland the power to take the decisions that they have not been able to take.”(It would give them to Westminster not Stormont). Most MPs including the Conservatives who spoke, were …

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Now we’ve got into an even bigger mess over human rights, courtesy of guess who?

If ever it needed reminding, the importance of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and its court in Strasbourg was underlined by the comments of the former Lord Chief Justice to MPs the other day.  As it stands Sir Declan Morgan feared that Westminster’s latest attempt at a Legacy Bill would be struck down by the Court as  in basic violation of human rights. But there is an even more fundamental dimension to this. ECHR rights are embedded in …

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The UK government must do better than this wretched legacy bill. But an amnesty is still inevitable

Last week the Bishop of Derry dedicated a garden to the memory of a 15 year old Derry boy Manus Deery, shot dead by the British Army in the Bogside on the 50th anniversary of his death. As the Derry Now website reported: Manus had just started working after leaving St Joseph’s Secondary School and was eating a bag of chips and carrying a comic in his back pocket which he had bought with his first wage packet… At the …

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The public will not put up with more months of private stalemate. Sinn Fein and Alliance must open up the Assembly to full debate

  The glasses of full and half full Assembly results have been poured and are  being eagerly being digested according to whether consumers are convinced they amount to a breakthrough for the nationalist cause or leave things much the same in a slightly different shape. Each according to taste. What matters more immediately now are the bums on seats in Stormont. To allow Executive ministers of the old mandate to continue, MLAs will have to manage to elect a Speaker. …

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What is the point of Brandon Lewis?

On the Sunday Morning show on BBC 1, NI Secretary Brandon Lewis let slip that he’d “spent the week in the US”.  He also enlightened us that he visited Northern Ireland “most weeks” but didn’t say for  how long.  His most recent contributions are  in written statements urging the DUP to return to the First Minister post immediately and saying that No, he will not call an Assembly election early. These read as if they’re for the record rather to …

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The UK government have a stronger hand in the Protocol dispute than their critics think

Lord Frost  Well, where are we on the Protocol?   As talks begin in Brussels which are expected to last  for months , Lord Frost says there’s a long way  to go.  EU vice president Šefčovič insists the EU has reached its limit.  Those are the public positions. Even the briefings are somewhat contradictory.  The Times hopefully reports that the EU is open to a compromise deal that would limit the role of EU Court of Justice in Northern  Ireland, with …

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Belfast Rapid Transit (Glider) Phase 2 announced

This week, Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon launched the public consultation for Phase 2 of the Belfast Rapid Transit (Glider) system.  I think this is a welcome development and will improve connectivity, access to and uptake of public transport in the city.  I remember when Glider was first launched on the east/west route a few years ago. Before it got off the ground, it was fashionable to dump on it (a common pattern for public transport projects on this island). …

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Legacy: Who are we moving on for?

Northern Ireland, it seems, has a problem with moving on. Decades (centuries) of strife and conflict. The pain, the trauma, all of it passed down from generation to generation. In the year of our lord 2021, we’re still angry about it all. Still hurt, still frustrated and in pain. Step forward the Prime Minister and his Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis.  They have seen the light and taken a bold, brave step to help us move forward. The government has …

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This time, it’s the Troubles legacy. Northern Ireland opinion on a key issue, even when substantially in agreement, is being overruled by Johnson’s Conservatives

The devil will be in the detail but as a example of news management in advance, the UK Government’s plans for a Troubles amnesty could hardly be worse for opinion in  Northern Ireland Veterans who served in Northern Ireland are finally set to be freed from the threat of prosecution. In a victory for the Daily Mail, a planned statute of limitations will today be announced covering all incidents during the Troubles. The move by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is …

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How the NI Protocol protects the Agreement

To the chagrin of Unionist politicians, it’s often emphasised by the four governments (UK, Ireland, EU, and US) that the Northern Ireland Protocol exists to protect the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. For reasons which are understandable when examined in isolation, Unionism feels let down by the promise of the Agreement. I can see where they are coming from. The Agreement is based on cross community consent; the Protocol does not recognise this. British citizens are asked to …

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