The Border Force row exposes differences between British and Irish citizenship that have to be settled

Leaving aside the delicious irony, I would guess that Sinn Fein are right: the attempt to limit recruitment for the UK Border Force to British passport holders is discriminatory and would be overthrown  in court.  Why should anyone have to produce a passport for a job in Northern Ireland anyway?  This has echoes of the malign Windrush problem. without feeling the  pain – yet,   Up to now only when you go abroad and need to produce a passport has the issue … Read more

Political ferment is reflected in the GFA junketings, but no sign of a breakthrough

Will the DUP and Sinn Fein pay any attention to the eloquent pleas of the elder statesmen to return to the Executive?  On the surface the answer appears to be no, unless something is going on behind the scenes we don’t know about. Local politics suffers from elder statesperson fatigue. This generation has learned how to take in their stride the high sounding generalities from popes, presidents and prime ministers past and present.  The shock of the new wore off … 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…”

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of ‘password’ or ‘test of membership’ gave the impression that I thought the Good Friday Agreement was in any way outdated or unimportant.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

Coming to terms with our interdependencies #GFA20

On the 20th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, it is easy to neglect the peace process that preceded it. My reference point is the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, because I learned about the efforts of then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald the year before, from a magazine article that I read in a local library in my rural hometown in Ohio. I knew then that what he was working on was important.

There is nothing republican about tying identity to a tricolour

“This decision will put back community relations…people are telling me their culture is being eroded, people are angry!” While this quote is reminiscent of the infamous flag protests of 2012, the main result of which being the increase in Jamie Bryson’s Twitter followers, the above comments are actually only weeks old and refer to a Councillor’s response to rumours that a Strabane St. Patrick’s Day parade would not allow the Irish tricolour to be flown. While Derry and Strabane District … Read more

A revised Belfast Agreement is needed more than nostalgia for 1998

Like Magna Carta, the Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement has acquired the status of icon of the constitution. This is not altogether in its favour.  A good deal of nonsense is talked about Magna Carta.  Back in 1215, no sooner had the ink dried on the vellum of the fair copy, than bad King John denounced it. But the idea of curbing the unbridled power of the monarch could not be unborn and it finally evolved into government by the rule … 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

Clean hands

Nato Conference Room

FitzJamesHorse pithily describes the formality that Irish is the “first national language” as Ireland’s “first national hypocrisy”. But Ireland is not short of hypocrisies. Its second national hypocrisy has long been the pretence that Ireland is somehow free of the sin of abortion. And to this list we should add a third, the conceit that Ireland is a “neutral country”. The second and third national hypocrisies are remarkably similar. In both cases Ireland has dodged a controversial issue by washing … Read more

Surf and turf

Boats with EU, UK flags sailing in opposite directions

As blogger David Allen Green has pointed out, whoever produces the first draft of a legal document has the advantage. While the EU has been criticised for its backstop-Brexit draft, the UK has conspicuously failed to produce any draft at all, and shows no signs of doing so. The final transition agreement is thus unlikely to differ from the EU’s draft in anything other than some finer details and cosmetic language. This was of course predicable and widely predicted back … Read more

London and Dublin must clear their lines for close cooperation on direct rule

Clarity rather than coyness is now needed over moves toward direct rule. Working on its  scope and duration is one more compelling reason for London and Dublin  to stick together.  On Monday at the otherwise disastrous Stormont meeting, Theresa May and Leo Varadkar pledged “to work together on a new plan on how to achieve a frictionless Irish border.” Good luck to them with that. On the continuing local stand-off, two elements are essential. Enough action must be taken to … Read more

Sceptical, not cynical about “the long drawn out attempt to breathe life back into the Stormont arrangement”

Whilst on Saturday Brian highlighted the question of “the prospect of Sinn Fein’s return to Stormont as Mr Adams’ parting gift”, today Ed Moloney posits another, equally plausible scenario… You know, a cynic might suspect that the whole thing, at least the long drawn out attempt to breathe life back into the Stormont arrangement, was staged or timed so that the breakthrough would happen just when Sinn Fein want to present a new, Adams-free image to the electorate down South, one … Read more

“In Kenova’s sights are also those IRA leaders on the Provisional Army Council who sanctioned the “executions” for spying…”

The BBC reports that Freddie Scappaticci has been arrested in England by the Operation Kenova team and is being questioned “in connection with the investigation into allegations of murder, kidnap and torture”. [Scappaticci is pictured above – bottom left with dark moustache at funeral of Provisional IRA member Larry Marley] The investigation team confirmed that a 72-year-old man had been arrested. The BBC understands the man being questioned is Fred Scappaticci and that he was arrested in England. The investigation … 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

“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

“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

Remembering a Modest Proposer

The writer and essayist George Orwell was not a man who was generous with his praise for anything, so when he wrote in a review that ‘If I had to make a list of six books which were to be preserved when all others were destroyed, I would certainly put Gulliver’s Travels among them‘, that’s about as high a recommendation as could come.  Its author, Jonathan Swift, born exactly 350 years ago, was arguably the first writer to master the … Read more

Diarmaid Ferriter on Gerry Adams: “Many political careers end in failure; some just end in irony.”

It’s worth quoting at length from historian Diarmaid Ferriter in Saturday’s Irish Times on the ironic legacy Gerry Adams leaves for Sinn Féin. Fianna Fáil continued to invoke its republican “heritage” while determinedly staying the revisionist course; the same conclusions are likely to be reached about Sinn Féin under Adams. One of the reasons for the self-righteous defensiveness beloved of Adams was precisely to mask the revisionism, or what has been referred to as the “creative ambiguity” of peace process … Read more

The postwar ID requirement between Northern Ireland and Great Britain

Reading through some old Wikipedia articles pointed me to an interesting exchange in the House of Commons, back in 1948. Ulster Unionist MPs Conolly Gage and Major Samuel Gillmor Haughton rose during an adjournment debate to complain about the requirement for a permit or passport to be presented for travel between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Mr Gage opens by highlighting the inconvenience of this arrangement : As everyone knows, Ulster is as much a part of … Read more