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

Whatever you do, don’t handle the debate on a border poll like the politics of Brexit

The decision of the two governments to publish “ the basis of an  agreement “ on a return to Stormont  next week as recommended here and by others  is very welcome. Publication will either expose to your judgement and mine the reasonableness or otherwise of whoever is holding out against agreement, or it will constitute the agreement itself.  While an atmosphere of optimism among the parties is being fostered (no pun intended) in the  sketchy reporting, there is nothing objective …

Read more…Whatever you do, don’t handle the debate on a border poll like the politics of Brexit

Royal Portrush: our biggest ever event, worldwide appreciation, old school nostalgia.. it’s got it all. Let’s give ourselves a big break

Amid all the  and doom  and gloom over Brexit, I can’t let this week pass without a hefty mention of the Open at Royal Portush.  Here surely is a  piece of British exceptionalism all can enjoy, the  un-neurotic side of identity.  Note that it’s called  “the Open”. No “British” prefix is needed (although I see the Irish Times wouldn’t you know it has added it, just in case somebody thinks it’s the Uzbek Open).  This piece of swagger was pointed …

Read more…Royal Portrush: our biggest ever event, worldwide appreciation, old school nostalgia.. it’s got it all. Let’s give ourselves a big break

“À la Bastille!”

One more time, then… with continued apologies to Pierre Ranger… [It’s a tradition, we know… – Ed]  Indeed!  And with Alaphilippe in yellow again!  Play La Marseillaise!   Pete Baker

Has a human rights culture gone too far? The subject of this year’s BBC Reith Lectures

Lord Sumption On what authority do we create “a rights based society”?  Is everything we call rights, actually rights or just preferences? Who arbitrates between competing rights? In what way are rights superior to ordinary law?  These are basic questions which lie behind the  claim often made in Northern Ireland that all rights are beyond legitimate dispute.  They also  lie at the heart of this year’s series of BBC Reith Lectures being given by Jonathan Sumption,  a recently retired  Supreme …

Read more…Has a human rights culture gone too far? The subject of this year’s BBC Reith Lectures

RIP Heather Harper, from East Belfast to Glyndebourne

The great Belfast born singer Heather Harper has just died at the fine old age of 88.  Heather, Barry Douglas and James Galway were the most acclaimed classical musicians Belfast  produced  in the twentieth century.   As Alf McCreary writes, Heather  never forgot her Belfast roots. I remember her performance – and his warm words afterwards –  at the 50th anniversary concert for BBC Northern Ireland  at the height of the Troubles. “She was the daughter of an Ulster lawyer, Hugh …

Read more…RIP Heather Harper, from East Belfast to Glyndebourne

Misha Glenny, famed expert on lethal clashes of identity in Europe, discovers his own roots – in Newry

Misha Glenny I knew Michael “Misha” Glenny  as a young BBC correspondent  reporting the tragedies of the  disintegration of Yugoslavia  from the  eighties  and more recently as the author of the book and executive producer of the smash hit TV thriller series McMafia, about the spread of global crime into politics and  the world of  billionaire finance.  Misha’s interest is in part hereditary. His father Michael senior was a student of Eastern Europe and a famed translator who legend has …

Read more…Misha Glenny, famed expert on lethal clashes of identity in Europe, discovers his own roots – in Newry

“Media that care more about spectacle than clarity only encourage the culture of bullshit.”

I have mentioned this before, but it’s a point worth repeating every now and again.  [Any particular reason this time? – Ed]  Oh, one or two…  From Kenan Malik in the Guardian Media that care more about spectacle than clarity only encourage the culture of bullshit. We live in an age obsessed by fake news and politicians’ lies. These are issues important to tackle. We should not ignore, however, the more insidious culture of bullshit. A liar, observed Frankfurt, knows …

Read more…“Media that care more about spectacle than clarity only encourage the culture of bullshit.”

“Such pressure as is on Ireland (and it will be significant) will come from the reality of the situation…”

Worth quoting at length from Pat Leahy in the Irish Times on the Irish Government’s role in the ongoing Brexit negotiations.  It’s a welcome, un-hysterical look at a key player in what will unfold.  [And all too rare here! – Ed]  Indeed.  From the Irish Times By and large, Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and the Government apparatus as a whole have handled the Brexit crisis well – just as the Opposition, in the main, has been pretty responsible. Contrast our …

Read more…“Such pressure as is on Ireland (and it will be significant) will come from the reality of the situation…”

“À la Bastille!” Again!

Once again, with apologies to Pierre Ranger… [It’s a tradition, we know… – Ed]  Indeed!  Play La Marseillaise!  [Any chance of a French winner on Stage 8? – Ed]  Probably not… Pete Baker

As another crisis hits the EU, raging against the Brexiteers is not an adequate response.

Boats with EU, UK flags sailing in opposite directions

Try as I might I’m unable to understand the appeal of Brexit for the UK, never mind Ireland north or south. I say “understand “deliberately rather than “appreciate”, as it is possible to see where people are coming from even if you don’t join them on the journey. Therefore I’m often a humble passenger on Fintan O’Toole’s train of thought. The greatly admired Fintan is among the most sophisticated critics of Brexit on either island from the high vantage point …

Read more…As another crisis hits the EU, raging against the Brexiteers is not an adequate response.

“…on which Mr Hazzard in purporting to be offended by a long-standing informational map would do well to reflect.”

Or, catch yourself on!  From the Belfast Telegraph, the operator of the national railway network in Ireland, Iarnród Éireann, with a demonstration of how to respond to contrived mischief-making by a member of the UK parliament, in this case Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard, MP.  From the Belfast Telegraph report  A spokesman for Irish Rail said the company had worked “through good and bad times” to provide services between Northern Ireland and the Republic, including “the extraordinarily challenging era when sectarian …

Read more…“…on which Mr Hazzard in purporting to be offended by a long-standing informational map would do well to reflect.”

In true Bloomsday style, “Samuel Beckett got outrageously drunk…”

If you don’t know by now, it’s tradition!  [We know… – Ed]. Those of a sensitive disposition are duly warned, once again, that James Joyce enjoys the language in all its fecund nuttiness. And another reminder of a brief history of the day, from the Guardian, which includes this great 1924 quote from Joyce on Ulysses – “I have to convince myself that I wrote that book. I used to be able to talk intelligently about it.” Joyce’s last Bloomsday would take place on 16 June 1940, when the author was …

Read more…In true Bloomsday style, “Samuel Beckett got outrageously drunk…”

The Churches are backing themselves into a corner of Northern Ireland’s narrow ground. The laity should take over

Following on from the testimony of  Gerry Lynch and Elizabeth Nelson, it’s  hardly a surprise that the continuing revolution in faith and morals over abortion and  LGBT rights won elsewhere but not here,  is splitting the churches. True to ancient form, the leaderships of the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Churches are treating what is actually a clash of moralities as challenges to authority.  The Catholics appeal to canon law, the Presbyterians to the Bible. And that is still that. For …

Read more…The Churches are backing themselves into a corner of Northern Ireland’s narrow ground. The laity should take over

“The third lesson of this episode stretches far beyond Israel-Palestine…”

The Palestinian leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, has been widely condemned for his anti-Semitic remarks in a televised speech addressing a meeting of the Palestinian National Council on Monday 30th April.  Among his critics, as the Belfast Telegraph notes, former US Secretary of State John Kerry Former US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote on Twitter: “These comments are wrong, ugly, and unacceptable – anywhere from anyone – but particularly from anyone who says he wants to be a peacemaker. No …

Read more…“The third lesson of this episode stretches far beyond Israel-Palestine…”

“I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border…”

Played up is right.  Labour Party front bencher, the shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, a former NIO minister, has apologised for “informal remarks in a meeting last month“, in particular, that his “use of the word ‘shibboleth’ in its sense of ‘password’ or ‘test of membership’ gave the impression that I thought the Good Friday Agreement was in any way outdated or unimportant. I absolutely do not.”  Which is fine.  But his recorded comments, last month, during a Q&A session after a speech …

Read more…“I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border…”

A noble illusion perhaps, but unity and reconciliation are not compatible

Writing in the Irish Times, Robin Wilson has eloquently identified “a cosmopolitan vista of “unification as reconciliation” among diverse individuals on the island…. as the current Tory government disappears down the Brexit rabbit hole”. Amid fears of a renewed, Brexit-induced hard Border, a plebiscite would be a blunt-instrument (and one-sided) response – less discussion, more sectarian headcount. A more sophisticated approach, less likely to lead to highly unwelcome consequences, would be to redefine the process of north-south co-operation recognised by …

Read more…A noble illusion perhaps, but unity and reconciliation are not compatible

With or without a good deal on Brexit, EU oversight of an all-island economy is looking likely

Jim Allister QC is not the only one to spot the potential extension of north-south areas of cooperation under “the backstop”, the notorious Option 3 of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, as Newton Emerson reports. There’s quite a bit more from Professor Dagmar Schiek of Queen’s University and from human rights organisations north and south. With cooperation, authority follows.  It is indeed a wonder that the DUP have not reacted more strongly. They seem to be putting their faith in  a …

Read more…With or without a good deal on Brexit, EU oversight of an all-island economy is looking likely

No threat to the Good Friday Agreement in sight, but bolder joint action is needed after St Patrick’s Day

Traditionally the St Patrick’s Day pilgrimages to America have been occasions for everybody involved in our politics to be on their best behaviour and bask in waves of Irish-American blarney. Not so much this year, as  Arlene Foster and Mary Lou McDonald have been left off the White House invitees list for failing to clinch the deal to get Stormont going again. But Adams and Paisley jnr are lurking in the wings as  living reminders of past glories compared to …

Read more…No threat to the Good Friday Agreement in sight, but bolder joint action is needed after St Patrick’s Day

“Monolithic” NHS should back Northern Ireland Randox’s pioneering blood testing techniques

Randox  the global medical diagnostics company with principal research and manufacturing facilities in Crumlin Co Antrim, Dungloe Co Donegal, Bangalore, India and Washington DC has just been singled out for favourable mention by the Times science columnist Matt Ridley. He writes that its leading edge blood diagnostic techniques for cancer are not being adopted quickly enough by “a sclerotic NHS”. Randox was established in 1982 by its Managing Director, Dr Peter FitzGerald in Crumlin, and has since expanded globally. (see Wikipedia) …

Read more…“Monolithic” NHS should back Northern Ireland Randox’s pioneering blood testing techniques