Breaking… The UK will meet the June deadline with a breakthrough plan for Brexit and the border, to a cautious welcome from Varadkar

Has  the fog started to clear?  Can any sense be made of the claim and denial about extending the transition beyond 2020 to buy time to solve the customs relationship and the border? The Guardian, RTE and the BBC all thinks so, reporting top level briefings from both governments  at the EU summit  in Sofia. Without overdoing  it sounds like a modest breakthrough on the hitherto incompatible versions of the stopgap . The longer term relationship involving a longer transition … Read more

If you were the EU’s chief negotiator, what would you say to Arlene Foster to make her happier?

Not exactly an unbiased report in the Daily Telegraph Michel Barnier has denied trying to split up the United Kingdom after strongly backing plans that would create a new border between Britain and Northern Ireland after Brexit. In an inflammatory address in Dundalk, Ireland on Monday, Mr Barnier denied there was a secret EU plan to pressure Britain into reversing Brexit by insisting on a backstop clause that would keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union. Arlene … 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

Brinkmanship on the Border

Another day, another doubt.   After a weekend of sherpa preparations for the EU summit on Thursday and Friday, both sides are still unsure they can reach an agreed position by tomorrow night on transition terms and duration   for the UK’s departure from the EU.  From the Irish Times preview of the David/Barnier meeting, it’s clear that the Irish government neither want nor need to  take sole responsibility for imposing a veto on a transition timetable later this week. Irish and … Read more

Leo goes to Washington

The Taoiseach. Leo Varadkar, and his ministerial colleagues landed into the United States this week as the Trump White House is embroiled in turmoil. This St. Patrick’s week isn’t at all that strange, however, in the new, unprecedented political reality ushered in when the American people chose the bombastic billionaire over Hillary Clinton nearly a year and a half ago now. The dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, though it seemed to happen suddenly, has been in the works … Read more

“Northern Ireland to become an EU province” after a Brexit breakdown. Did we not know that already?

Tomorrow the EU will publish its legal version of December’s joint Report or Withdrawal Agreement that was supposed to guarantee against a hard border. The intention is to remove any idea of a fudged   political deal that could be changed later. It  will however become the EU’s law not the UK’s. Britain will argue that Withdrawal Agreement will be superseded as a result of a final free trade agreement. However as has been well trailed,  it will omit the guarantees … 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

Splits widen in May’s cabinet and party as Varadakar comes closer to backing Hammond’s version of a soft Brexit

Brexit politics is hotting up amid the snows of Davos. The Brexiteer house paper the Daily Telegraph reports remarks from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar taking a soft Brexit line close to Chancellor Philip Hammond’s in the Swiss resort.  Hammond is the key figure here. He has  lit the blue touch paper to ignite the Tory right and  earned himself a rebuke from a No 10 which is trying to damp down the first flickers of new surge against Theresa May’s weak … Read more

Frances Fitzgerald resigns from cabinet

Statement in from the outgoing Tanaiste & Minister, Frances Fitzgerald; Today I made the decision to tender my resignation to the Taoiseach, stepping-down with immediate effect as Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve in Government, but I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time. “Throughout my career I have always sought to … Read more

Ireland and the border has emerged as the current acid test. In their own interests, Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin should give Theresa May space to pass it

The current British position is admirably described by James Forsyth in the Brexit leaning, Conservative supporting Spectator. I can do no better than to quote it at length. It covers a viewpoint that cannot be dismissed by ardent Remainers like me.  Whatever the mood music, it will be taken seriously in the chancelleries of Europe. For they see that the British are gradually shifting. The next few weeks are the  time for quiet diplomacy with the megaphone put away and the tweeting held in check.

Read moreIreland and the border has emerged as the current acid test. In their own interests, Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin should give Theresa May space to pass it

Former 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

Out of left field, Sinn Fein launched the perfect storm. So let’s hear it for Leo

  Wouldn’t you know it? Sinn Fein put down a vote of no confidence first and so set the hare running. Can Fianna Fail afford to lag fortoise-like behind? In a sprung election no-one entirely wants just now, which party  holds the initiative in the tangled web of minority government and balf in. half out opposition?  Back wbere they still feel they belong for Fianna Fail under Micheal Martin? The Last hurrah for Gerry Adams or a rushed new hello … Read more

Brexit and the border is widening the gap between London and Dublin and depressing further the chances of a return to Stormont

It has started to happen. Will it continue?  Can it be reversed? The politics of Brexit  is openly dividing the UK and Irish governments and further polarising the DUP and Sinn Fein,  making a return to the Executive less likely than ever.  Predictably Brexit is increasingly becoming domesticated as the new big theme  in a revived unionist v nationalist struggle. What’s just happened?  The sequence was best described in a cool- headed column in the Indo by Dan O’Brien, chief … Read more

Brexit is in a mess, but not irretrievably

Want to know where we really are on Brexit? In  three words, in a mess. Can we get out of it?   Possibly at the eleventh hour, 10 pm on Friday 19 March 2019, just like the Good Friday Agreement in fact. Nothing  is agreed until everything is agreed. As so often – like the Stormont standoff – the politics look more difficult than the rational solutions. The Irish and British prime ministers profess themselves in the dark about  each others’ … Read more

On the Stormont deadlock, time now to test party positions and introduce a mediator

If the Irish Times is right,  Dublin HQ has prevented Michelle O’Neill from striking a  political deal.  It is a deplorable fact that throughout this 10 month deadlock, so little is reliably known about party positions beyond nods, winks and notoriously unreliable mood music. At least in the Brexit negotiations the principals give some sort of account after every session. Times have changed since 1998.  Then, reasons for secrecy were far more credible.  The main agenda for much of the … Read more

Leo Varadkar: “we need to build more bridges and fewer borders”

LEO VARADKAR delivered a robust but polite lecture at Queen’s University Belfast this morning, his first public engagement in Northern Ireland in his new role as Taoiseach. The artfully crafted speech quoted local poets and Winston Churchill as well as ending with a positive story that echoed something he’d recently heard Jeffrey Donaldson say in Dublin. This was not a speech that intended to be divisive. It offered a partial policy framework, but very little in the way of absolute red lines or dogmatic solutions. However, they were definitely not the words of a political pushover.

“Rainy Days Back In Fashion”: The Week In Irish Politics

Another week, another glimpse of ‘new politics’ at work in Dáil Éireann. The Green party’s Waste Reduction Bill, (co-sponsored by Labour as the Greens are short on number in the chamber), passed to committee stage late last night. It did so with the support of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and a host of Independents. Its supporters argue that it’s by far the best way to reduce waste by putting the onus on companies to reduce packaging while … Read more

The Week in Irish Politics

After a roller-coaster first week in office, the new Varadkar administration would have viewed their second week as a cake walk by comparison. With both sides of the house still smarting from a row over judicial appointments, they were all keen to move on. “We definitely do not want to cause a needless election” seemed to be a common refrain in the corridors of Leinster House in the aftermath. It’s possibly more accurate to say that no one wants to … Read more

For Leo A Week is a Long Time in Politics

Eoin Neylon was President of Ogra Fianna Fail from 2014-2016, he has taken a look at the week in Irish Politics “A week is a long time in politics”. This quote is often attributed to former UK Labour PM Harold Wilson. It’s a quote that was likely ringing in the ears of Leo Varadkar this morning as he made an appearance at law firm Arthur Cox. Just a week ago he was accepting international plaudits as he accented to the … Read more

The shape of a Stormont deal is emerging. Will promised public consultation seal the deal or become yet another stalling move?

So the parties are to respond to a paper issued by the two governments today. After four months of apparent lack of close engagement by the British government in particular , talks  took on a clearer shape and urgency since the Westminster general election. The paper has been seen by Barney Rowan and summarised in Eamonn Mallie’s website . The content of the the legacy section has been around for months with agreement said to be on the brink for … Read more

“Anyone for more opium?”

The empty rhetoric of the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, in Downing Street last week… Speaking at Downing Street, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said that the party told Mrs May “very directly that she was in breach of the Good Friday Agreement” over the Conservative negotiations with the DUP. …is neatly summed up in Ed Moloney’s blog post title, “Sinn Fein Meet May, Complain And Then Go Away……Move On, No Story Here“. The party’s impotence, in relation to any arrangement … Read more