What is a shared island?

I am but a mere local political commentator who occasionally gets asked to do TV and radio. Occasionally I regurgitate my annoying opinions in written form. Thanks to my involvement with an upcoming Institute of Irish Studies project, I got the opportunity to ask the Taoiseach about the new Shared Island Unit. There were scenes on Whatsapp when I told my mum what I was doing. “Martin or Wee Higgins?” she texted, getting mixed up. In his speech, Micheál Martin …

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On the doctrine of inevitability

The News Letter had an interesting article a short while back, reporting remarks by Alex Easton in respect of a border poll and the Irish reunification debate. It is not clear in which context he made his comments, but the headline is that he speculates that nationalists will “inevitably” lose a border poll, and recites a few other well-known tropes. I am not a nationalist, but I feel that his comments reflect beliefs prevalent within unionism around how people like me …

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This is the very moment to speak out against the old Wolfe Tone trope, that Britain is the source of all Irish ills

Demo in Place de la Républic, Paris   As is  only to be expected, Chris Donnelly in the Irish News plays the full anti imperialist card against the UK, without regard to variations of interpretation.  He uses a French quotation approvingly as if the  French were purely the  idealists of the Rights of Man and that the revolution  had no downside such as the ruinous attempt to conquer all Europe and the French Empire never existed. All major states were born …

Read more…This is the very moment to speak out against the old Wolfe Tone trope, that Britain is the source of all Irish ills

Northern Ireland Centenary: This country

This is about the centenary of Northern Ireland. But first, a slight detour. In Lucy Caldwell’s, ‘Multitudes,’ one of her characters describes the heartache of watching her teenage school friend move from Northern Ireland to England. “They’ve had enough is what Susan’s mum says. She just can’t take it anymore. ‘This country,’ she says to my mum. ‘This country,’ my mum says back to her, and neither of them says anything else.” The scene has always stuck with me because …

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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 …

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Academic working group launches public consultation on unification referendums on the island of Ireland.

The Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland is today launching a public consultation asking people for their views on the prospect of a referendum on Northern Ireland’s constitutional future. The group is neither for nor against such a referendum – it is simply seeking to clarify the process. This post introduces the group and sets out some of the key questions it is asking. You can access the survey by clicking here. What is the Working …

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Why is the UK sleepwalking into final Brexit chaos and towards breakup?

As the notional deadline of October for final Brexit negotiations draws ever closer, the clouds if anything are growing darker. The UK’s statements on their withdrawal position and the NI protocol have clarified very little. Johnson and co seem like General de Gaulle in 1940, holding out for an impossible position of victory against the odds. But at least de Gaulle had allies. A City University webinar I linked up with yesterday confirmed growing pessimism over Northern Ireland prospects.( video …

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Shared or united island? The Greens called it right.

The new banter coalition in the Republic has got off to a dramatic start. Ministerial sackings! A tax ruling from the ECJ! Infighting! It’s everything we could have hoped for. Among the chaos of this week came an interesting titbit from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. According to Ryan our own Clare Bailey, the party leader in Northern Ireland, was behind the decision to rename the ‘united island’ unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to the ‘shared island’ unit. …

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It would be a mistake for Unionists to seek terms for Irish unity now. There’s a bigger future to discuss

The time, therefore, has finally come for unionists, particularly those in Northern Ireland, to consider the terms on which they could tolerate, if not accept, a united Ireland… On the eve of Northern Ireland’s centenary next May, Unionism needs to form an assembly of its own to answer that question. So what should unionism demand in exchange for its tolerance of unification? First, let’s acknowledge that unionism holds a pretty decent hand should it care to play it: the knowledge …

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From united Ireland to a united island to a shared island. What’s in a phrase?

an Taioseach Micheál Martin On the grand coalition’s approach to the Irish future, the Trinity academic   Etain Tannam has noticed important changes in the final version of the Programme for Government The final version in June differed quite significantly from the draft version in April. The 2020 Programme for Government provides a detailed long-term plan and creates a new unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to ‘work towards a consensus on a shared island.. The 2020 Programme for Government provides a detailed long-term plan and …

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The curious case of the Department of Health

Abortion has been legal in Northern Ireland for over a year now. Under the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020, terminations up to 12 weeks are now lawful. Abortions after 12 weeks are heavily restricted. Terminations are available up to 24 weeks if there is a risk to the mental or physical health of the woman. There is no time limit where there is a fatal fetal abnormality. With the law firmly in place, it was expected that the commissioning of …

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Micheál Martin elected as the 15th Taoiseach…

Micheál Martin is a lesson in having patience. If you hang around long enough and play the long game you eventually get the top job. The Corkman is not exactly the most exciting politician but maybe a steady hand on the tiller is exactly what Ireland needs in these turbulent times. As I said in the Dáil earlier, being elected Taoiseach of a free Republic is the greatest honour that any Irish person could hope for. I am humbled by …

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From Banana Republic to Boomtown Rodents and Celtic Tigers…

I watched a recent BBC documentary on the Boomtown Rats (available on iPlayer for the next eleven months) which wasn’t just your average bog-standard rockumentary, but also partly a commentary on how the once socially conservative, deeply religious, unemployment-riven Irish Republic (a country many ambitious young people wanted to leave once they were old enough – Geldof and co included) has changed beyond recognition since the band started plying their trade at the height of the punk scene back in …

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Behind the alarmist noises, the UK and the EU have the basis of a deal. It will be criminal if they fail

David Frost and Michel Barnier standing together ( just about) Lurking not far behind Covid is the self inflicted crisis over the next stage of Brexit.  To many including me, the prospect of a border at the Irish Sea is as revolting as a  physical border on the island of Ireland. It’s no consolation that there’s a disconnect between the political rhetoric and what’s actually happening on the ground. The government has privately conceded there will be post-Brexit checks on …

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Victory for the de Souzas and for Irish citizens’ immigration rights: a battle that should never have needed to be fought

Yet another example of ignorance of Northern Ireland affairs in different parts of the UK government. Derry born Emma de Souza has won her three year battle to allow her American husband Jake to live with her, an Irish citizen in Northern Ireland, without having to renounce her birthright as a British citizen which she doesn’t want to exercise. She wants to bring him in under EU therefore Irish not UK immigration laws. Her victory is a triumph of principle …

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There is more than one vision of a new Ireland

I’ve yet to read Paul Gosling’s book with the vaultingly ambitious yet carefully ambiguous title “A New Ireland: a new Union, a New Society.”   Judging from the discussion and its antecedents from the Holywell Trust, it makes an important contribution to enriching the debate on the future of the island.  But the logic of ideas seldom reproduces easily in politics. Political will is something else entirely. Broadly there are two contrasting approaches to the future: to follow the logic of …

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Another case of perverse British exceptionalism rumbled late?

Peter Donaghy  vindicated! An FT exclusive picked up by the Guardian.. The government has left open the prospect of ditching its own contact-tracing app in favour of the “decentralised” model favoured by Apple and Google after it was revealed that a feasibility study into such a change is under way. After repeated warnings that the UK will be an outlier if it insists on using its own centralised app rather than relying on Google and Apple’s technology, rights groups and MPs said …

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The stand off over the Ireland/NI protocol is a model of cooperation compared to Covid planning

A few days ago, naively perhaps, I wondered why north and south weren’t cooperating actively over Covid 19, especially when a memo of understanding had been signed between the two public  health authorities at the end of March . After all ” North –South”  is one of those pillars of the GFA that are almost a religion albeit a neglected  one. Surely Covid created ideal circumstances for holding a big revival. Across the water, one of the pieties of the …

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Why the wall of silence over north-south Covid cooperation?

Whatever the reliability of the figures, it seems possible  that the Republic has been managing  Covid 19 better – or has been luckier- than Northern Ireland. Whether this can be accounted for by the incubus of UK delay and the complexity of a bigger country with an older average population will emerge from the inevitable spate of inquiries. But north -south coordination and  cooperation over phasing out lockdown would seem to be essential. And yet so little has emerged about …

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Boris Johnson’s perversity on the Brexit cliff edge reminds me of the Free State’s rejection of all things British

Warrenpoint Harbour The UK’s stubbornly negative  approach to future relations within the EU reminds me of the newborn Free State’s attitude to Britain after the trauma of independence. They can’t wait to be rid of even the symbols as well as the substance of the former power even  to the extent of trying to deny the facts of mutual interdependence particularly over the economy. Granted there are vital differences. No blood has been spilled over Brexit and… I was going …

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