More delay over a return to the Assembly needs challenging by the two governments

So  the target date for either direct rule  or an agreement to revive the Executive has slipped  for  another week at least. What a surprise!   We were told by the two governments yet again that ” progress” had been made, but this has been slapped down by the DUP. Sinn Fein’s agenda as far as I know it is not inherently unfeasible. The problem is that it’s Sinn Fein who’s running with it.  Crafty old Gerry for false-footing the DUP?  Or … Read more

Will someone spell it out. What role for Dublin under ” direct rule? “

Patrick Murphy’s apt question in the Irish News. “ Why do we think Dublin would  be any better than running the North than London?”  prompts the even more basic question:. What sort of new Dublin “input” is wanted or even necessary? Later this month, “Direct Rule” in whatever guise would  in key respects be inevitably different from the direct rule of 1972 when the two sovereign states had barely begun to cooperate. Today, the British- Irish relationship through governments and … Read more

“Women in Northern Ireland continue to be discriminated against.”

With the Northern Ireland Department of Health refusing to update guidance to health professionals here regarding pregnancy terminations, despite the changes to UK policy announced earlier this year, in the Guardian Goretti Horgan, a lecturer in social policy at Ulster University and a founder member of Alliance for Choice in Northern Ireland, argues for change to address the equality issue that failed to make it into anyone’s ‘red lines’. [Because that would break the bastards? – Ed] Probably…  From the Guardian … Read more

Update! Shock victory for free abortions in England for NI women as the government suddenly caves in to cross party pressure

The chancellor has just announced that the government intends to fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland. I recommend scrolling down the Guardian Live for the sequence of events ending in reverse order with the splash in George Osborne’s Evening  Standard, “Abortion Vote Chaos Hits May.” The Guardian believes this was done so fast and unexpectedly  to avoid  a Commons defeat on the Queen’s Speech, with some Tories supporting a Labour amendment  to introduce it. It carries a … Read more

Conservative pressure is increasing to allow NI abortions in England as a result of the deal with the DUP

The DUP deal with the Conservatives has elevated the refusal to allow Northern Ireland women free abortions in England under the NHS into a real issue in the House of Commons. And if Ian Paisley junior can be said to speak for his party (which is not always the case) the DUP may not oppose a change. This would help the party improve its image among the mass of MPs who opposed a deal with “dinosaurs.” Support for a change … Read more

Do we want Westminster to impose uniform UK standards? On abortion and same sex marriage? How about an indemnity for soldiers?

 Social reform – on abortion and same sex marriage – is not only a bone of contention in the Stormont talks. It’s creating a clash with MPs across party at Westminster at a precarious time for the future of both legislatures. The Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal against the decision of the Health Secretary for England Jeremy Hunt not to allow Northern Ireland women to have free abortions on the NHS in England may now become entangled in Westminster’s … Read more

UK Supreme Court rules narrowly against free abortions in England for Northern Ireland women. But in Scotland?

Support for abortion reform in Northern Ireland becomes all the more relevant after the decision of the Supreme Court last Wednesday narrowly to reject the appeal against  Jeremy Hunt the Health Secretary for England,  refusing to exercise his discretion to allow  women from Northern Ireland to have abortions free of charge on the NHS  in England. A triumph of democracy, opponents would say. From the Guardian report   The judges were ruling on the case of a woman identified only … Read more

Conservative manifesto very warm on the Union, cool and correct to the Republic, no mention of special status in ” a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement”

TORY LAUNCH: Here I concentrate on those matters of specific interest to Northern Ireland. Remember that while manifestos tend to be mainly broad brush, they convey a sense of direction. The rhetoric of this one is modern British Unionist, as would be expected with the Union under threat but it avoids Rule Britannia jingoism.

Barra McGrory has a better view of justice than politicians who undermine it with thoughtless talk

If someone with Barra McGrory’s background and CV cannot be trusted to perform the duties of DPP fairly, we may as well hand the whole justice system to a UN commission of Finns, Norwegians and a few Daleks.  What his glib critics disregard first is the freemasonry ( metaphorical term)  of the legal profession across the divide which survived the Troubles and helped make him the  right person at the right time for this high profile  job.  It’s also worth … Read more

Special status for the North is a possibility from Barnier’s speech. Would the UK agree?

EU negotiator Michel Barnier and the Irish government seem to be inching their way towards special status – sorry – arrangements, for the North. The EU is there for you, Ireland and so is a close partnership with the UK based on a fair free trade agreement – but ( only!) after sufficient progress on EU citizens’ rights and the financial settlement. So declared Michel Barnier in a speech to the Oireachtas that seemed designed to calm the worst Irish … Read more

Are the DUP sounding “generous and smart” or have they just lost their mojo?

Mick has just credited Arlene Foster and the DUP with making moves toward nationalists which Sinn Fein is struggling to answer.  I see very little that the DUP have done yet that needs an answer. It is not  news that the DUP  don’t want a hard border or that there is a case for some sort of Irish Language  Act, totemic as it is,  particularly when your own contemptuous rejection  whipped up demand for it.  How to answer SF effectively … Read more

For Brexit, British and Irish citizens’ rights are not yet guaranteed. Interchangeable rights for all should be the aim

The issue of reciprocal citizenship rights after Brexit is turning out to be more complicated than at first thought. It extends well beyond confirming the status quo to embrace work and pension rights for new immigrants from the EU as well as the 3 million existing residents.  Even when an EU citizen’s rights in the UK are backed up by taking out British citizenship, everything is not quite the same as before – as in the case of the dual … Read more

“Brexit has become a central question in the identity conversation and that is dangerous”

In a commentary  “Brexit and Northern Ireland” on the EPC discussion paper( see below) the  legal academic Chris McCrudden  asserts the primacy  of the Brexit question and laments the  “ tone deafness” of the UK government to  Northern Ireland’s interests. But while he rightly sees the need to set priorities in the interparty talks, he doesn’t discuss here the reasons given for SF’s withdrawal from the Assembly such as an Irish Language Act and the legacy and other  issues  SF insist … Read more

On Brexit, the Irish are caught between two opposing forces, but at least they’re showing more invention and concern about the North than the British and northerners themselves

The ritual opening shots in the Brexit campaign must leave the Republic feeling caught in a trap in a dialogue of the deaf between two opposing forces. So much, so sadly predictable, in spite of all the warm words- although the crudeness of the exchanges is perhaps surprising. It’s pretty clear that the Irish government don’t favour the aggressive opening approach by the Commission and confirmed this morning by its chief negotiator Michel Barnier. On the detail of the FT’s … Read more

Amnesty for soldiers and police officers appears imminent after the election. And the effect on prospects for restoring the Assembly?

The government appear to be on the brink of taking the legacy of the Troubles out of the hands of the Assembly. The only  question remains if they would entertain an agreed counter proposal from the Assembly parties . You can work out for yourself  the prospects of that The Times (£) are reporting that The British government has moved one step closer to shielding British soldiers who served during the Troubles from murder prosecutions despite concerns that it could … Read more

Advance on abortion law reform and the treatment of women generally is now inevitable in the Republic. But will it go the whole way?

For readers catching up, the Times (£) has a good pull together on the prospects of seismic change to the Republic’s abortion law. In a series of votes over the weekend, the citizens’ assembly, set up to consider the issue, recommended that abortion should be available up to 12 weeks after conception “with no restriction as to reason”. The vote for change was overwhelming, by 52 to 29. The Irish Times passes a qualified verdict Despite the recommendation from the … Read more

Rights are tricky things, especially when it comes to the ‘right to life of the unborn’ and the ‘equal right to life of the mother’…

I get a distinct feeling of unease when I hear an individual or a group on the media complaining that their ‘rights’ to something have been infringed. I wouldn’t necessarily have thought that these people can make any such claim, but they are often vocal in their assertions. A group, for example, may take over a vacant property and ‘squat’ there; when there is an attempt at eviction they will claim that they have ‘squatters’ rights’. Perhaps they do have … Read more

Operation Kenova and The Spy in the IRA…

John Ware’s BBC Panorama investigation on Freddie Scappaticci, The Spy in the IRA, is available online, with an accompanying article on the BBC website.  Ed Moloney has some relevant posts on his blog on the programme, including criticism of the initial response by processors in the media to Liam Clarke’s scoop when he broke the story in 1999. Not all journalists were as keen to follow the story up. Sinn Fein spread the word that Liam Clarke’s story was the work of … Read more

Left to themselves, the parties won’t agree. The time has come for the governments to bring forward solutions which involve the people directly

Observed from London, the political atmosphere at home is surreal.  The volume of comment on the talks is in inverse proportion to hard information. Expectations of agreement by Good Friday are so low that  the local media can barely be roused from torpor. Emergency action for feeding the Stormont cats occupied more space in the Belfast Telegraph the other day.  Further emergency action to fund the regional government must be taken within a week followed by the crunch decision to … Read more

Bertie’s separate agenda should include warming Theresa May’s ear about the Human Rights Act

Following in Bertie Ahern footsteps what should the  two governments negotiate about bilaterally as the Brexit talks proceed? In the Irish Times Noel Whelan argues that “ Ireland and UK must renegotiate Belfast Agreement” The EU has been described as a cornerstone of the Belfast Agreement. This is more than just constitutional flannel. The agreement specifically provides, under stand 2, article 17, for the North-South Ministerial Council to facilitate co-operation and co-ordination in EU matters. The council’s remit in this … Read more