Irish unity : going nowhere fast

So how’s the Irish reunification campaign coming along ? According to Sinn Féin President, Mary Lou McDonald, there doesn’t need to be one, because it’s already been won. A few days ago, speaking to Owen Jones, McDonald said of a United Ireland : ‘We’ll do it in the next decade. We’ll do it in this decade, actually.’  This is an example of the nationalist equivalent of the ‘inevitability doctrine’ I wrote about a few months back. In my previous article, …

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Post Nationalism is a sign of political maturity…

In the history of ideas, Nationalism has burst through as nearly universal in its application, understanding and complexity. The Northern Ireland political scene has long been described as two competing nationalisms, our polity birthed as it was in the cradle of nationalist fervour unleashed on the battlefields of the Great War and continuing into the 1920s with Ireland’s (eventual) split from the British Empire. What we colloquially call “unionism” is a form of British nationalism intent on protecting the interests …

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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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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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Remembering John Hume

Since news of John Hume’s death emerged yesterday (3 August 2020), there has been an outpouring of obituaries and tributes to the man who is considered the architect of peace in Northern Ireland. These were immediate, as is the case with obituaries of key figures in society, and Hume has not been a well man for some time. Obituaries play a key role in how individuals and their legacies are remembered after their death, and can be considered as sites …

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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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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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Patronising the “liberal unionist”

I’ve often noticed a strange but predictable phenomenon, and last week I experienced it directly here on Slugger. It was on Jay’s thread about the merits or otherwise of the established unionist parties. When I bookended criticism of the two main unionist parties with similar criticism of the priorities of Sinn Fein, I had a number of responses deriding me as a poor representative of “liberal unionism” or as a member of the “liberal wing” of unionism. That got me …

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Emma De Souza: a solution?

As we drift through another week in lockdown, it’s hard to believe that there’s anything else to discuss apart from Coronavirus. Thankfully, Northern Ireland’s unique brand of identity politics stops for no pandemic. Cast your mind back to last year and the case of Emma De Souza. I wrote about it here. Mrs De Souza’s case concerns Article 1(vi) of the British-Irish Agreement. That section states that the two governments recognise the right of: ‘…..the people of Northern Ireland to …

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#BrexitDay-Nothing but damage

In Jan Carson’s The Fire Starters, there is a quote: “There is never enough silence to contain all our talking…….we continue to believe that across the sea, Europe (and also the world) is holding its breath for the next chapter in our sad story. The world is not waiting.” More than anywhere else in the UK, Brexit shifted the ground beneath Northern Ireland. It threw us down on different sides, sides that were also the battle lines that came before. …

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Looking forward to an early end to the Stormont deadlock. Christmas cheer, or only a Christmas truce?

How will the parties  “reflect”  on their stance towards Assembly restoration during the Christmas lull? Will it be peace on earth, good will to all or only a Christmas truce? The finger of fate is pointed at the DUP.  Will their resentment spill over into resistance? How dare the secretary of state break precedent and single them out for blame just because all the other parties seem to have supported a deal? Even that is the wrong conclusion because as …

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Total Recall: Assembly Edition

Last week 31 MLAs including the DUP, TUV and UUP signed a petition and sent it to the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly. That petition has led to a recall of the institutions. Tomorrow, the Assembly will sit for the first time since the death of Martin McGuinness. The prospect of the Assembly meeting again has many people raising questions. Can MLAs stop the introduction same sex marriage and abortion reform? Is there any prospect of a government being …

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Stormont Consent-what does it mean?

Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson 30 days to submit alternative proposals to replace the backstop. After a long wait (where it was speculated that the Prime Minister would merely amend the Withdrawal Agreement with tip-ex) the UK Government has finally submitted its plans. Spanning seven pages, Johnson’s proposals are a mis-mash of different ideas. All the hits you know and love are back. Remember Max Fac? It’s there. Nostalgic for Customs checks? Want a border down the Irish Sea? The …

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Arlene Foster “we must engage with those of a nationalist background”

DUP Leader, Arlene Foster spoke at an event titled Vision for Unionism: Beyond 2021. First, we must engage with any, and all, supporters of the Union, regardless of whether we hold fundamentally different views on party, policy or society. Today at this initial event, we talk amongst the DUP, but this is only the opening stage of this work and from this afternoon on, we must go out, talk and listen to other Unionists. We must find areas of common …

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Identity is more than a passport

Chris Eisenstadt is a dual national who has lived in Northern Ireland since he was 11. Recently, with the success of the English cricket team, there has been a “debate” about what it means to be English. The captain of the team, having been born in Ireland, has been praised and criticised for his decision to take to the field (is it a field? My cricket knowledge is rubbish. I’d never pass the Tebbit test) for England. I don’t know, …

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The Unity Genie is Out of the Bottle: What do Unionism and Southern Parties do Next?

As we fast approach the local council elections, it’s important to assess what the results might tell us about the future of Stormont and power-sharing as a whole. Will the council elections show a growth in the Nationalist vote? And/or will we finally see a breakthrough in middle ground voters, against the vacuum and groundhog day of our local politics? I do not need to inform all where we’re at and why. We all have slightly different takes on this, …

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Emma DeSouza: None of us benefit from the Home Office’s position

In 2015, Emma DeSouza married her American husband, Jake, in a ceremony in Belfast. Later that year, the couple applied for an EEA residence card. Their application relied on the 2006 EEA Regulations and was grounded in Mrs DeSouza’s Irish citizenship. In September 2016, to the couple’s surprise, their application was declined. In giving its reasons for refusing Mr DeSouza’s residence card, the Home Office referred to Mrs DeSouza’s citizenship. She was born in Northern Ireland and, in the Home …

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The banner is one thing but the New York parade has always raised eyebrows

The St Patrick’s Day parade in New York has always been controversial. In the 1980s and 1990s, while Northern Ireland was in the middle of the Troubles, NORAID would walk in the New York parade and collect money for the IRA. In 1983 Michael Flannery, who organised NORAID, was chosen as grand marshal. The decision lead to a number of politicians boycotting the event that year. The New York parade has a long history of being anti LGBT. It was …

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SDLP take their place at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis

The first Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis since the announcement of the announcement of the partnership with the SDLP, so we thought we would go down and see the response that it was getting from delegates. There was a decent number of SDLP members and MLAs at the Ard Fheis, with members curious about the event and MLAs enjoying liaising with TDs and Senators. Despite the partnership being a few weeks old, you can still detect at a membership level some …

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Future Ireland / Breaking waves – Considering a New Ireland in 2019

As the drama in Westminster continues, it’s fair to say that in 2019 and beyond, Northern Ireland’s often petty and tedious politics will be interesting, as an international spotlight passes over old scars and immense change looms once again. At times, it feels like we are back on a familiar shore, where the waves grow bigger and the very sand is moving below our feet. Brexit, now, is like a meteor landing in the distant sea. Suddenly, many of the …

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