A warning to Leo from his base on his drift towards Mary Lou and Sinn Fein…

I didn’t get to share this piece from Sarah Carey in The Times, Ireland edition yesterday. It’s a stern warning to Leo Varadkar over his political flirtation with Mary Lou McDonald from a columnist from a committed FG family… The omens indicated something so preposterous and outlandish that I ignored them for too long, but no longer. Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Féin leader, says that she wants to form a coalition government with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Not on … 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

Trimble rains on the GFA parade with supposed threat from loyalist paramiltaries over Brexit terms

Steve Punter's profile photo of David Trimble

David Trimble has many qualities but spreading sweetness and light is not prominent among them.   He has pricked the bubble of the GFA commemorations with a sinister warning. The one thing that would provoke loyalist paramilitaries is the present Irish government saying silly things about the border and the constitutional issue. If it looks as though the constitutional arrangements of the agreement, based on the principle of consent, are going to be superseded by so-called ‘special EU status’ then that … Read more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

Derry’s politicians should stop playing the victim and make more friends and influence people

Steve Bradley’s chastening post on  Derry part 1 is remarkable for its detailed analysis and the volume  of  comment in response -greater I think than for any of the usual subjects I’ve seen in a long time.   Certainly it touches a nerve with me. I left my Derry home to go to school in Coleraine and never lived there again after the fateful year of 1969 when the old order quite suddenly and easily fell apart, an arresting fact its … Read more

EXCLUSIVE POLL: Unionist supporters content with East West post #Brexit border controls…

The dilemma facing Brexit negotiators on the ‘Irish border’ question is how to retain an invisible, frictionless, ‘soft’ North-South border in Ireland and somehow avoid the seemingly inevitable reality of the emergence of a ‘hard’ border if the UK leaves the single market and the customs union. Squaring this circle is a little tricky. It’s hard to have a border and not have a border all at the same time. Borders are a bit like boiled eggs, either hard or … Read more

“You cannot be everything to everyone. If you decide to go north, you cannot go south at the same time.”

With the extent of the growth of Sinn Fein in the Republic, it’s getting hard to give a convincing account of southern politics without also looking at what’s happening in Northern Ireland. Until or unless there’s a split in the way that the party organises itself in each jurisdiction, it’s hard to account for all the twists and turns (of which there’s been many just this autumn alone) by only watching the party’s activities in the north or the south. … Read more

Sharper words from Varadakar but no change in substance. But here’s a new idea.

It’s hardly a surprise that the Dublin government’s latest expressions of concern about Brexit are focused  on Ireland.  But why should the Irish expect  greater clarity and urgency from London on the border when London has been so  vague about everything else?  By itself, lack of clarity needn’t  be taken as a  sign of indifference. Leo Varadkar’s comments may be a mite sharper than Enda Kenny’s, but in substance there is not an iota of difference between them. Mr Varadkar, … Read more

Should the other Dublin parties denounce Sinn Fein if they’re gaming the Stormont talks?

The Irish Times political editor Stephens Collins enjoys an unusual dual role of senior political reporter and opinionated commentator. It’s not always clear if he’s getting a bead on emerging trends of opinion in politics or simply speaking for himself.  Perhaps what Stephen thinks today,  many of the guys in Leinster House think tomorrow?  Today, he asks the blunt questions about Sinn Fein’s real intentions towards the Assembly. While most of us were struggling with conflicting feelings, he writes off … Read more

NI’s post Brexit (and unpolicible) border will be dictated by the (un)generosity of #Brexit’s precise terms.

Last night, I rewatched Michael Smiley’s Something to Ride Home For, a light-hearted, three-part TV series featuring interviews and bike rides across Ulster (including Monaghan and Donegal) which was originally broadcast in the summer of 2015. There’s a section in his interview with author Dervla Murphy at Crossmaglen on the shores of what I took to be Lough Ross, which straddles the border, where he reads from her 1979 classic A Place Apart where she discovers she’s crossed the border seven … Read more

The gap between politics and the law is further exposed. But ruling on the clash between the Scots and Irish nationalists with the UK government will be the more momentous decision for the Supreme Court.

Brian WalkerFormer 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

A unified island will require a strategic and open handed approach, not the offer of cheap British-lite trinkets…

Sinn Fein’s policy document has had what many must have thought was an unusually fair wind from our resident bloggers. Not that I’m trying to undercut any of those critiques, but for realism’s sake it’s worth noting this important caveat from Alex Kane: What they don’t acknowledge is that Irish unity kills off unionism as both a political and electoral force, because their country (Northern Ireland) and the constitutional identity and basis of their citizenship (the Union) would disappear. And … Read more

“It was crazy to allege that the Irish government isn’t working for the interests of [northern] businesses.”

This is worth noting. It relates to Arlene’s accusation aimed at the Republic accusing them of poaching FDI opportunities away from NI. In reply to a written question from Cavan Monaghan TD Brendan Smyth, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor noted (scroll down to Question 506) this last week: Both agencies under the aegis of my Department, Enterprise Ireland (EI) and IDA Ireland, engage with relevant bodies in Northern Ireland to pursue areas of mutual advantage. Developing all-island initiatives … Read more

Micheál Martin throws a few questions at the all island dialogue on #Brexit to consider…

The Royal Hospital in Kilmainham was the venue for a series of Reconciliation Networking Forums which take place annually [amended from my mistake earlier]. The venue is now being pressed back into the purposes of north-south engagement. Unlike those previous events, this all island civic forum on Brexit (Live Feed available here) has been much more overtly political, making almost inevitable there would be no formal representation from any unionist party. It began this morning with a series of pitches from each of the political leaders and … Read more

Unionists have to be nudged to talk, with the incentives of common citizenship and other common interests

Enda Kenny is surely right to be cautious about setting up an “all-Ireland forum” Better to have a “conversation” at least to start with in November.  Even so its ability to speak for all Ireland would be seriously weakened  by the absence of  unionists,  just as it would be counter- productive  for the unionists not to take part eventually .  As things stand, Northern Ireland’s regional government is therefore neither formally or informally to be represented. A fully fledged forum … Read more

Perhaps it is no surprise that people are not fixated on constitutional issues…

You can almost hear the conversation between the Government Spin Doctors on Wednesday afternoon… “It’s only a pointless TV poll about the North… Who cares? No one in the South knows who Stephen Nolan is. Let’s send out Jimmy Deenihan… sure, what harm can he do…” To be fair to MoS Jimmy Deenihan his “No, really” reply to the question if the Republic could afford Northern Ireland if there was unity tomorrow has not done any real or lasting harm. … Read more

#IrelandsCall: So similar and yet north and south continue their long slow drift apart…

RTE/BBCNI Ireland’s Call survey 2015 from Slugger Consults Here’s an initial collation of the slides from last night’s programme, taken from what RTE and BBC NI have shared on their websites, and a couple of screenshots I took at the time. If you have any more do let me know and I will add them to a second iteration? There’s lots of yummy data in the overall survey, not least the indications just how happy everyone seems to be both … Read more