For the sake of clarity, all sides should stop spreading myths about Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement

Ignorance and special pleading about the Good Friday Agreement and its relationship to Brexit and the border has been a feature of angry comment that has followed the collapse of the Stormont talks. The Daily Express led the pack The Good Friday agreement explicitly stipulates there cannot be a hard border on the island of Ireland, leaving Brexiteers launching impassioned arguments on the deal. It does nothing of the sort. Even Adam Boulton who speaks with the great authority on … Read more

Equality has arrived but the DUP and Sinn Fein have yet to face up to what it means

“Equality” has always been a Sinn Fein buzzword. As the recanted ex- IRA man Shane Paul O’Doherty lethally today quoted Gerry Adams speaking in 2014: “The point is to actually break these bastards – that’s the point. And what’s going to break them is equality … That’s what we need to keep the focus on – that’s the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy is to reach out to people on the basis of equality.” Other views are  un-cynical … Read more

Does Brexit threaten rights protection for Irish citizens in the North?

What happens to a raft of human rights when we leave the European Union and the European Charter of Human Rights no longer applies? The question is raised by the leading constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor.  Successive UK governments (and I!) thought we had opted out of it for years, but the European Court of Justice ruled in 2013 that we hadn’t. Inevitably there is an Irish angle to this that may be of  particular concern to Irish-EU citizens in Northern … Read more

Care is needed to stop the wheels coming off the Good Friday Agreement

I suppose it was inevitable. On the fringes of Westminster politics the alignment of Leave with a Brexit Union and Remain with support for the GFA is hardening, as shown in reaction to the failure so far to restore Stormont. This is what happens when people dip into the issues and pull out again. Living with them requires steadiness. Former secretary of state, stout Brexiteer and Shropshire lad Owen Paterson tweets that the GFA “has outlived its use.” Kate Hooey, … Read more

For a political deal ever to emerge, mutual ignorance needs to faced and mutual respect observed

Mick has rightly just pointed out how tantalising easy the language issue could be to solve, were it not for the politics that expresses a far deeper  mutual ignorance ( in both senses) than is often recognised and which 20 years of supposed power sharing has failed to reduce.  Politically there must be limits to the management of the voluntary apartheid state we appear to be creating before cohesion collapses altogether.  That moment may not be as far off as … Read more

Irish citizenship may open the door to an extended role for Dublin and Brussels in the North after Brexit

Brian WalkerFormer BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

The British government are contemplating an all-round amnesty, claims Denis Bradley. If so, it’a too hot to handle for the local parties and should become a big ticket item for Westminster

 Denis Bradley has been spelling out a basic home truth about dealing with the past in discussion on BBC NI’s The View with his partner in the still definitive Eames Bradley report. “Tough love” for victims is overdue.   Writing in the Irish News, he has also made some startling assertions. That families should be given truth pertains to knowing what and why a death or injury happened during the four decades of the troubles. But there is something out and … Read more

At the sharpest end of dealing with the past, whatever the arguments, the Haggarty case takes your breath away

A Loyalist  “supergrass” who admitted the murders of five people among hundreds of offences has had a 35-year jail term reduced to six-and-a-half years for helping the police. Gary Haggarty, 45, was a former leader of an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) unit in north Belfast. Haggarty was a paid police informer for 11 years The judgment from Belfast Crown Court indicated that the 35-year jail term was reduced by 75% for the assistance given to prosecutors and then a further … Read more

Dramatic turn over bid to quash the police ombudsman’s Loughinisland report

Pressure is mounting on  Mr Justice McCloskey to withdraw  from the hearing to  quash the police ombudsman’s report on the Loughinisland  murders.  The bid was made by lawyers including the recently  retired director of public prosecutions Barra McGrory. Last week the judge had already deferred a ruling to allow a new lawyer for the police ombudsman  to read himself into the case. This has turned out to be the former DPP. Newly instructed counsel for the Ombudsman, Barra McGrory QC, … Read more

“Any political party that vetoes the re-establishment of the Northern Assembly until further human rights are recognised (or not) is putting the cart before the horse.”

As Newton Emerson pointed out in Saturday’s Irish News, Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, and erstwhile “father of an all singing, all dancing Northern Ireland Human Rights Bill“, Professor Brice Dickson, has had something to say about ‘red lines’ and a ‘rights-based’ society.  From the Irish News article Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, Prof Brice Dickson, has penned a robust article in the Irish Times explaining that the Stormont talks issues Sinn Féin is describing as “rights” are … Read more

“The truth remains that Adams will only reveal his past if it suits his own agenda.”

We might never know the truth about the suggestion that Gerry Adams was responsible, directly or indirectly, for setting up the Provisional IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade for ambush as they tried to blow up a police station in Loughgall in May 1987.  Sinn Féin have dismissed the claims as “utter nonsense”, and some of the usual suspects have busied themselves playing the man – and/or the media. Meanwhile, Ed Moloney provides some useful background, and reproduces the chapter in his book ‘A Secret … Read more

“Perhaps we can begin with social parity.”

Writing in the Guardian, Richard Angell, LGBT officer of the Labour Irish Society and director of Progress, has an interesting suggestion Owen Smith is right to say that if the parties of Northern Ireland cannot get their act together and restore power-sharing government then direct rule, however undesirable, must be used to make progress on LGBT and reproductive rights. But he is wrong to say that referendums are necessary to give a mandate for change. For one, thing they are not required. Unlike in the … Read more

Amnesty for security forces foreshadowed in the DUP deal

Just a footnote to yesterday’s post on the government’s floating of an amnesty for security forces. The Irish News follows up predictably enough with angry responses to what they rightly report as the adoption of the recommendation of the Commons Defence Committee report  just before the general election. The committee, which includes DUP MP Gavin Robinson, said that the pursuit of members of the crown forces was “wholly oppressive and a denial of natural justice”. “It can be ended only … Read more

The government need to come clean urgently on their bungled proposal for a security forces amnesty

After Sinn Fein held their meeting with Theresa May this afternoon,  Gerry Adams diverted from the apparent failure to make progress on restoring Stormont with a genuine issue: a potential amnesty from prosecution for security force members who served in the Troubles is to be floated by the British government. The Irish News carries the fullest version of the story by the PA.  What’s being floated is a statute of limitations in a fundamental and unilateral amendment to the 2014  Stormont … Read more

The reception for the Loughinisland documentary No Stone Unturned shows that legacy issues will stay marginalised

The low key reception given to the documentary No Stone Unturned, the film documentary on the UVF  murders  of six  randomly selected Catholics in their local Loughinisland  pub in 1994 which is currently being  given a brief screening at the Queen’s Film Theatre, is the latest example of how presumed familiarity with the underlying problems of  Northern Ireland has produced if not quite contempt, at least widespread deadening  indifference. Warm congratulations nevertheless go to The Detail team especially their reporter … Read more

Real work to restore the Executive has yet to begin. For the public to make an impact, proposals and pressure from the governments are essential

As a comparative outsider I’m struck by how most commentators are obsessed with speculating about political positioning and identity narratives. This has produced numbing negativism and  despair  rather than the energy needed to approach the daunting but practical problem of trying to restore the Executive.  Being case hardened and calloused, they endlessly refine their own explanations for obvious failure. They accept the parameters set by the DUP and SF too readily. To be fair, this is often the default caused by a … Read more

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