Surely it’s long past time that we binned this unspoken “Honorary MLA” status?

Last week, following the resignation of West Tyrone MLA Catherine Kelly following the office cash controversy, Sinn Fein chose to replace her with party colleague Nicola Brogan. I’m not singling out this MLA or her party as five parties have done similar since the last Assembly election. But the word “appointed” is such an inappropriate one in any democratic process and it needs to be addressed. An MLA goes for whatever reason, but the electorate has no say in who …

Read more…Surely it’s long past time that we binned this unspoken “Honorary MLA” status?

New Decade, Same Nonsense

With the four-week circuit breaker due to expire on Friday, people across Northern Ireland are looking for certainty. Businesses need to know if they can re-open at the weekend. Workers want to know if they’ll get an income over the next few weeks. All the while, six of Northern Ireland’s hospitals are at full capacity. As of this morning, the Executive still hasn’t agreed a way forward.  Robin Swann proposed a two-week extension of the circuit breaker but this was …

Read more…New Decade, Same Nonsense

What is a shared island?

I am but a mere local political commentator who occasionally gets asked to do TV and radio. Occasionally I regurgitate my annoying opinions in written form. Thanks to my involvement with an upcoming Institute of Irish Studies project, I got the opportunity to ask the Taoiseach about the new Shared Island Unit. There were scenes on Whatsapp when I told my mum what I was doing. “Martin or Wee Higgins?” she texted, getting mixed up. In his speech, Micheál Martin …

Read more…What is a shared island?

It’s strictly dancing up to the Brexit deadline. Meanwhile “the border in the Irish Sea” takes shape in Northern Ireland

Archbishops’ letter image. FT  The  off- on- off again  dance around the final stages of Brexit negotiations is taking place against  a mounting clamour of confusion and anger over the crazy politics  including the real implications of the threatened No Deal, about which the UK government postures so insouciantly. UK in a Changing Europe think tank says their modelling with the LSE of the impact of a no-deal Brexit suggests the total cost to the UK economy over the longer …

Read more…It’s strictly dancing up to the Brexit deadline. Meanwhile “the border in the Irish Sea” takes shape in Northern Ireland

It looks like a deal but what sort of deal? And it’ll go down to the wire

The idea of  extended deadlines right  down to a supposed last minute  will hardly surprise anybody in Northern Ireland. We’ve lived with them for a generation. Taking a tour round comment on the Brexit cliffhanger, the prospects for a deal are  looking good. British predictions of  going to the wire for  a decision by the big beasts of Merkel and Macron look like being fulfilled. But that doesn’t mean an optimal deal for British interests. From Peston The odds of …

Read more…It looks like a deal but what sort of deal? And it’ll go down to the wire

Power sharing is coming to England to spread the burden of responsibility for managing Covid. It will affect how the whole UK is governed

 Painfully and suddenly all in a rush, under pressure of the Covid pandemic we’re witnessing the development of power sharing throughout England that has wider implications for the whole UK. The pandemic will stretch well into next year. The infection rate is about to equal or exceed last March’s. The strains imposed on government and by government are tightening. From having a rate of infection per 100,000 people of 11.4 in the week up to August 15, well below the …

Read more…Power sharing is coming to England to spread the burden of responsibility for managing Covid. It will affect how the whole UK is governed

On the doctrine of inevitability

The News Letter had an interesting article a short while back, reporting remarks by Alex Easton in respect of a border poll and the Irish reunification debate. It is not clear in which context he made his comments, but the headline is that he speculates that nationalists will “inevitably” lose a border poll, and recites a few other well-known tropes. I am not a nationalist, but I feel that his comments reflect beliefs prevalent within unionism around how people like me …

Read more…On the doctrine of inevitability

Why can’t the Johnson government see that pure parliamentary sovereignty is incompatible with the survival of the UK?

Fintan O’Toole has written another of his entertaining essays trying to get to the bottom of why the UK and the English in particular are behaving like lemmings throwing themselves over a cliff over Brexit.   In the Irish Times today he comes with up “England as Ireland.” The big problem with English nationalism is that it is naïve. Because it has been buried for centuries under two layers of disguise – the United Kingdom and the British Empire – it …

Read more…Why can’t the Johnson government see that pure parliamentary sovereignty is incompatible with the survival of the UK?

This is the very moment to speak out against the old Wolfe Tone trope, that Britain is the source of all Irish ills

Demo in Place de la Républic, Paris   As is  only to be expected, Chris Donnelly in the Irish News plays the full anti imperialist card against the UK, without regard to variations of interpretation.  He uses a French quotation approvingly as if the  French were purely the  idealists of the Rights of Man and that the revolution  had no downside such as the ruinous attempt to conquer all Europe and the French Empire never existed. All major states were born …

Read more…This is the very moment to speak out against the old Wolfe Tone trope, that Britain is the source of all Irish ills

Boris Johnson has thrown everything up in the air. The EU has to bring them down to earth

The roller coaster continues. In its story today the Times slips in unattributably Johnson’s terms for a deal. The right of government  to subsidise company development  is the Trojan horse  that has emerged as the biggest obstacle to a deal because it continues to apply to GB as  well as NI,  leaving a remnant of  EU regulation at the heart of the UK that the sovereignty zealots find intolerable.  On this apparently esoteric topic depends much of the future character …

Read more…Boris Johnson has thrown everything up in the air. The EU has to bring them down to earth

Pause a moment. Could Johnson just pull it off?

The Protocol is a pawn on a bigger game;  to remove any trace of involvement by the European Court of Justice in ruling on applications for state aid for ailing or new industries . While that would remain the rule for Northern Ireland firms, it leeches into GB firms who invest or have branches in the North. And that breaches a cardinal Leave principle, of no involvement by the Court in GB affairs. There is surely another a Leave issue …

Read more…Pause a moment. Could Johnson just pull it off?

United pressure on Sinn Féin may be needed to break the legacy payments deadlock. Their own will benefit

dFM Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin Has Martina Anderson’s outburst distracted attention away from the substantive issue of the legacy payments deadlock, or given a boost to resolving it, following the court case requiring Michelle O’Neill in effect to remove her veto or exercise her option to resign? The scheme covers violence related to the Northern Ireland Troubles between 1966 and 2010, including incidents in Great Britain and Europe.. . People will get between £2,000 and £10,000 a year for the …

Read more…United pressure on Sinn Féin may be needed to break the legacy payments deadlock. Their own will benefit

John Hume the lone diplomat rather than party leader has won a special place in the history of these islands

John Hume  photo Irish News  It’s the memory of John the person that immediately springs to mind.   I believe he came to see himself with the vision and strategy of a man of destiny. But he did so without any of the aura that would have set him apart and made him vulnerable to being taken down. The near sainthood  that some have attributed to him must have made him smile. He had a great knack of friendliness even trust …

Read more…John Hume the lone diplomat rather than party leader has won a special place in the history of these islands

Why is the UK sleepwalking into final Brexit chaos and towards breakup?

As the notional deadline of October for final Brexit negotiations draws ever closer, the clouds if anything are growing darker. The UK’s statements on their withdrawal position and the NI protocol have clarified very little. Johnson and co seem like General de Gaulle in 1940, holding out for an impossible position of victory against the odds. But at least de Gaulle had allies. A City University webinar I linked up with yesterday confirmed growing pessimism over Northern Ireland prospects.( video …

Read more…Why is the UK sleepwalking into final Brexit chaos and towards breakup?

Shared or united island? The Greens called it right.

The new banter coalition in the Republic has got off to a dramatic start. Ministerial sackings! A tax ruling from the ECJ! Infighting! It’s everything we could have hoped for. Among the chaos of this week came an interesting titbit from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. According to Ryan our own Clare Bailey, the party leader in Northern Ireland, was behind the decision to rename the ‘united island’ unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to the ‘shared island’ unit. …

Read more…Shared or united island? The Greens called it right.

It would be a mistake for Unionists to seek terms for Irish unity now. There’s a bigger future to discuss

The time, therefore, has finally come for unionists, particularly those in Northern Ireland, to consider the terms on which they could tolerate, if not accept, a united Ireland… On the eve of Northern Ireland’s centenary next May, Unionism needs to form an assembly of its own to answer that question. So what should unionism demand in exchange for its tolerance of unification? First, let’s acknowledge that unionism holds a pretty decent hand should it care to play it: the knowledge …

Read more…It would be a mistake for Unionists to seek terms for Irish unity now. There’s a bigger future to discuss

From united Ireland to a united island to a shared island. What’s in a phrase?

an Taioseach Micheál Martin On the grand coalition’s approach to the Irish future, the Trinity academic   Etain Tannam has noticed important changes in the final version of the Programme for Government The final version in June differed quite significantly from the draft version in April. The 2020 Programme for Government provides a detailed long-term plan and creates a new unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to ‘work towards a consensus on a shared island.. The 2020 Programme for Government provides a detailed long-term plan and …

Read more…From united Ireland to a united island to a shared island. What’s in a phrase?

The New Deal was about more than a phrase, Boris. Michael Gove knows it and is bidding to be the government’s man of substance

Photo: The Guardian We knew in advance where Boris Johnson got “Rooseveltian” from. The inspiration came from Michael Gove, his friend and sometime rival who pre-announced Boris’s “bonanza”  and gave him a sort of intellectual alibi in his Ditchley lecture last week.  Johnson has the spectre of 3 million unemployed hanging over him and has had to think of something quick. Other than  borrowing  the phrase,  he baulks at a New Deal. He warms up the old Tory manifesto, throws …

Read more…The New Deal was about more than a phrase, Boris. Michael Gove knows it and is bidding to be the government’s man of substance

The curious case of the Department of Health

Abortion has been legal in Northern Ireland for over a year now. Under the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020, terminations up to 12 weeks are now lawful. Abortions after 12 weeks are heavily restricted. Terminations are available up to 24 weeks if there is a risk to the mental or physical health of the woman. There is no time limit where there is a fatal fetal abnormality. With the law firmly in place, it was expected that the commissioning of …

Read more…The curious case of the Department of Health

“No need for the talks to drag on to the autumn”.. but still the British are busking it

To return to the game of chicken with the EU..   Michael Gove.  The argument we’re making to the EU as well is, if you insist on significant new infrastructure and a significant new presence, what you will do is actually make the protocol less acceptable to the majority community in Northern Ireland and therefore you run the risk of the protocol being voted down in a future election,”  Michael  Gove  told the House of Commons Northern Ireland affairs committee. EU …

Read more…“No need for the talks to drag on to the autumn”.. but still the British are busking it