“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sense of ‘password’ or ‘test of membership’ gave the impression that I thought the Good Friday Agreement was in any way outdated or unimportant.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

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

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

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

“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

“As with the hardest essay questions, there is no right answer but many wrong ones.”

Writing in the Guardian, “former Downing Street Brexit spokesperson”, Matthew O’Toole [no relation – Ed] has some intelligent, and interesting, things to say about “the psychology of imagined identity” here, and the task facing the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, as well as the UK Prime Minister in the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. [Definitely no relation! – Ed] From the Guardian article As Bradley will discover, Brexit has unsettled one of the most intangible but … Read more

“The fact that all of the other parties in the Dáil rallied around to wave the green flag on Tuesday demonstrates not that the Government got it right but that it successfully pandered to populist sentiment”

In the Irish Times, Stephen Collins on the risks involved in the Irish Government’s public positioning over the ongoing Brexit negotiations.  From the Irish Times article The British government and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are the ones primarily responsible for Monday’s debacle, but the Irish Government didn’t exactly cover itself in glory. The way Tánaiste Simon Coveney jumped the gun with a premature radio interview on Monday morning and the subsequent mood music suggesting that the Irish side had … Read more

“ambiguity… appears to have led Dublin and Brussels to interpret it as a maximalist position, while the DUP believed or were led to believe that it would or could be minimalist.”

The parlous state of the Brexit negotiations has been generating more than the usual level of idle speculation, and arrant nonsense. [Including on Slugger? – Ed] No names, no pack drill… But there are some intelligent points being made, in some places, which are worth keeping in mind – if you are actually thinking about these things. Like other, usually reliable, observers, The News Letter’s Sam McBride, whilst initially a little puzzled by Monday’s developments, offered a coherent scenario yesterday. … Read more

Belfast man sentenced in Germany for 1996 Provisional IRA attack on army barracks

A timely lesson from the German authorities on dealing with Northern Ireland legacy issues…  Having successfully extradited 48-year-old James Anthony Oliver Corry from the Republic of Ireland in December last year, the Belfast man has now been convicted and sentenced for his role in the Provisional IRA mortar attack on a British army barracks near Osnabrück, Germany, in June 1996. From the Irish Times report A Northern Ireland man has been convicted in Germany of attempted murder for participating in an IRA attack on a British army barracks in the … Read more

“One of the things the independence movement hates most is that left-leaning people are against them…”

With the separatist Catalan government claiming that 90%, of 43% of the electorate, voted for independence, and ahead of a week of further uncertainty for all of Spain, the BBC’s Patrick Jackson gives a voice to some young Catalan Spaniards – some of whose views may, or may not, sound familiar…  ANYhoo… Here’s a lengthy excerpt from the BBC report. “We feel Catalan and Spanish and I’m not going to allow independence supporters to take my culture away,” says David. … Read more

An EPIC View of the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Wondrous images, from a million miles out in space, from NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) of the shadow of the moon crossing over North America on Aug. 21, 2017.  EPIC is aboard NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), photographing the full sunlit side of Earth every day.  [Image credit: NASA EPIC Team. Video credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Katy Mersmann] Pete Baker

Extradited Suspect Admits Role in 1996 Provisional IRA Mortar Attack in Germany

Unencumbered by the Belfast Agreement, ‘comfort’ letters, or any proposals on legacy issues, German authorities sought and, last year, secured the extradition of  a suspect in the Provisional IRA mortar attack on a British army barracks near Osnabrück, Germany, in June 1996. James Anthony Oliver Albert Corry, from north Belfast, had been arrested in Killorglin, Co Kerry, in October 2015, on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by German authorities. At the start of his trial today in a court in the city … Read more

“À la Bastille!”

Once again, with apologies to Pierre Ranger… [It’s a tradition, we know… – Ed]  Indeed!  Play La Marseillaise! Adds  And a French winner on Le Tour on Bastille Day! Pete Baker

Happy Bloomsday, intolerable Joyceans everywhere!

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 a reminder of a brief history of the day, from the Guardian last year, 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.” In June of … Read more

They will have to shed cherished illusions about how to deal with jihadist terrorism. We were different, but we know the feeling

Since the Manchester atrocity a lifetime ago on Monday night, we can hear echoes of the Troubles every day.   The elevation of suicide into martyrdom is a common theme but very differently enacted and  very differently received; passively- aggressively by  hunger strike  thirty five  years ago  and bitterly dividing opinion to this day: aggressively only  by the IED of militant jihad today; generally condemned except by their own but probably secretly admired by more than we care  to acknowledge. The … Read more

“at the collective level, something funny is going on in terms of our reality testing…”

Some interesting thoughts [as ever! – Ed] from the writer and novelist Will Self in an interview in the Irish Times today. If Self was concerned about the impact of technology seven years ago, what about now, when the overwhelming impression for many people is that the world is spinning faster and faster? Or is that just another technological illusion? “Oh no, I don’t think it is. It is absolutely not an illusion. Anybody smart – no, let’s not get … 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.

“Cars being stopped and searched is not going to happen”

Whilst the BBC quote, at length, the concerns about a post-Brexit border of “a former customs officer in Donegal” whom they interviewed on Radio Foyle, the Irish Revenue Commissioner’s lead official on the topic has been speaking at a conference on Brexit in Dublin organised by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.  From the Irish Times report The operation of a post-Brexit customs regime can be automated and simplified and does not need customs points with Northern Ireland, the Revenue Commissioner’s … 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