Does recall purdah benefit Ian Paisley? Will it end up in court?

Not only are there complaints that  three centres are inadequate  to cover the whole of rural North Antrim for recalling Ian Paisley and forcing a by election, but there are complaints about the purdah  on comment it enforces too. This twitter dialogue from two leading commentators Michael Crick of Channel 4 News and Anthony Wells of YouGov covers the point.       The 2015 Recall of MPs Act says that during the 30-day period NOBODY – journalists or anyone – … Read more

Institutional discrimination is dead. Identity politics has become an entertainment

Even the most inventive of columnists run out of material in the dog days of August.  So Alex Kane treats us to a little rant in the Irish News. The constitutional question remains at the heart of all political debate here; yet that question is louder and more pressing than it has been in my lifetime. This point was always coming, of course. As long as there were nationalist choices for one community and unionist choices for the other the question … Read more

Why do the DUP persist in ignoring the interests of their own supporters?

For decades, Barry White was a great part of the voice of the Belfast Telegraph, sometimes in his own name, as often in anonymous editorials. He was one of a trio ofsenior journalists, Roy Lilley, Ed Curran and himself who steered a difficult editorial path for the paper from 1970 arguing for the centre ground mainly from the standpoint of liberal unionism.   The voice was  that of reasonableness, by definition so often ahead of the real thing, although Barry wrote … Read more

Did Peter Robinson blunder into the border poll debate too early?

Coming late to the Peter Robinson speech at Glenties and its aftermath, I’m struck by two elements of it, one of which has been hardly picked up. In the text I was offered, the discussion of a border poll which overshadowed the rest of it didn’t appear at all. Tommie Gorman of RTE has explained. I chaired the Friday evening session (27 July) in the Glenties Highlands Hotel where Peter Robinson was the guest speaker. The references to a united Ireland … Read more

So when can we get married? An update on the campaign for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

We are coming to the end of another packed and exciting Pride week in Belfast. I’ve been struck by how many rainbow flags are billowing in the wind across Belfast city centre. From small newsagents to bars to coffee shops – it seems to me there are many more than previous years. I’m taking it as a sign of progress. I love Pride week, because it is the time of year when we hear the voices of people we don’t … Read more

Jamie Dornan helps launch new pancreatic cancer action group

A new community group to promote better outcomes for pancreatic cancer sufferers launched today at the Mater Hospital in Belfast. Pancreatic cancer is a major health issue for Northern Ireland, with around 270 deaths per annum.  It has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer – rates which haven’t changed markedly in 40 years. Pancreatic cancer is on the increase, with experts predicting that it will be the second biggest cancer killer in the US by 2030. Local … Read more

The Downside of Success – Coping with our increasing tourist numbers…


Over the past number of years, Northern Ireland’s tourism industry has maintained a steady growth and our visitor attractions have continued to become more popular than ever. These high levels of tourism are a relatively new phenomenon for the region and perhaps not one we have yet learnt how to deal with properly. In 2017 there were an estimated 4.9 million overnight trips in Northern Ireland, the highest estimates on record. Many of our most popular visitor attractions are purpose-built … Read more

Unionists could lose out if they don’t talk about a united Ireland

Many unionists have been given a ‘lundy bollocking’ over the past few years but it’s bizarre to see it happen to Peter Robinson. Robinson’s crime was to suggest that unionists should prepare for a united Ireland.  He said, “I don’t expect my own house to burn down but I still insure it because it could happen.” Robinson’s words have generated outrage with unionists like Sammy Wilson and Reg Empey lining up to tell the former First Minister to put a … Read more

Even if they don’t quite love us (and who can blame them?), British and Irish leaders want to show they care

At a time when all parties in Northern Ireland are feeling isolated and sorry for themselves for some reasons beyond their control and others self inflicted, it’s worth noting the two recent visits to Derry by senior ministers of both states.  While these differed in style, purpose and content, both emphasise the basic British and Irish engagement that continues despite present tensions and breakdown. Earlier this month the Tánaiste Simon Conveney visited the unionist Fountain estate as well as the … Read more

Migrant Rights as Civil Rights

Sipho Sibanda is a migrant rights activist in Northern Ireland. Progress since the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland should not be understated. The decline of religious discrimination in areas such as employment, housing, voting rights, and education is considered one of the crowning achievements of the last 50 years. However, asylum seekers and migrants in Northern Ireland today face a host of curtailments to their rights. Many of these rights are the same as those which were at the crux … Read more

Never mind the wrangling. What can the Intergovernmental Conference achieve?

We’ve  never been that great about commenting on economics and finance have we? Unless they’re fodder for the same old, same old wrangle  or we’re demanding more, more money from the Brits who never give us what we really deserve.  We get far more craic (crack, old spelling) out of the antics of Paisley junior, the very epitome of a farcical son of a overwhelming father who also  thought some rules weren’t made for him.  No prizes for guessing that … Read more

On the backstop, Theresa May’s “passion” for solutions and a bit more clarity seems to be paying off

Theresa May and Michel Barnier have spoken. Barnier has picked his way critically through the UK White Paper with its “facilitated customs arrangement” and common rule book, asking all the pertinent questions but turning nothing down.  80% of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is now agreed, but the EU’s version of the backstop remains the bugbear. The black scenario is:  no agreement on the border, no withdrawal agreement, therefore no transition and no deal. To be honest, nobody except … Read more

What should I tell my kids about the 12th July?

My kids always ask me what the flags are about. They find the black ones scary. But this year they were very impressed by the bunting and fresh Union Jacks in our area. ‘It’s making me feel very British’, said my five year old. ‘Me too, it makes me proud to be British’, added the seven year old. ‘That’s interesting,’ I said, thinking about their Irish passports in the drawer. And the fact that they tried to turn bath water … Read more

Perspectives on Change from a Dublin-dwelling northern Prod

I am a Northern Irish Protestant who has lived in Dublin for the past twenty five years. I am proud to be from the Protestant community and proud to be from Northern Ireland. But I have never been so proud to be part of a society, as I have been to be part of the Republic of Ireland in recent years. A society that voted, myself included, in favour of marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose. I have a friend … Read more

Defence Secretary Williamson revealed as private backer of an amnesty for soldiers

Despite this Sun ” exclusive,”  the ambitious Defence Secretary – the man who as chief whip negotiated the Conservative-DUP parliamentary deal – will have other things on his mind today – like which way will he jump on Theresa May’s Brexit plan?   GAVIN Williamson has secretly backed an amnesty for IRA terrorists — as the price for ending the witch-hunt of troops, The Sun can reveal. The Defence Secretary wants Theresa May to grant British troops who served in Northern … Read more

As another crisis hits the EU, raging against the Brexiteers is not an adequate response.

Boats with EU, UK flags sailing in opposite directions

Try as I might I’m unable to understand the appeal of Brexit for the UK, never mind Ireland north or south. I say “understand “deliberately rather than “appreciate”, as it is possible to see where people are coming from even if you don’t join them on the journey. Therefore I’m often a humble passenger on Fintan O’Toole’s train of thought. The greatly admired Fintan is among the most sophisticated critics of Brexit on either island from the high vantage point … Read more

What does Drew Harris’s appointment as Garda Commissioner tell us about Fine Gael’s attitude to Sinn Fein?

In the Irish Times Ed Moloney has a fascinating backgrounder on the ground breaking appointment of   PSNI Deputy Chief Constable  Drew Harris as Garda Commissioner. Might we now  expect that senior Garda officers will at last become eligible  to head the PSNI?  Or does  history suggest that a single force to serve the entire state creates too introverted a culture to adapt to elsewhere, even to the North?   Drew Harris brings heavy baggage with him and his  appointment will have … Read more

“…on which Mr Hazzard in purporting to be offended by a long-standing informational map would do well to reflect.”

Or, catch yourself on!  From the Belfast Telegraph, the operator of the national railway network in Ireland, Iarnród Éireann, with a demonstration of how to respond to contrived mischief-making by a member of the UK parliament, in this case Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard, MP.  From the Belfast Telegraph report  A spokesman for Irish Rail said the company had worked “through good and bad times” to provide services between Northern Ireland and the Republic, including “the extraordinarily challenging era when sectarian … Read more

“Not allowing people to speak or vote according to their conscience goes totally against republicanism, because without freedom of conscience there isn’t any freedom”

Sinn Féin’s continued adherence to the practice of democratic centralism, even on an issue that most political parties regard as a matter of individual conscience, has seen the party’s vice-president on the attack [best form of defence – Ed], and the resignation of Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan [“disappointing but not surprising” – Ed].  Now the former Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly, who resigned from the party in February this year over its increasingly pro-choice position, and his wife, Anne … Read more

Individual conscience may make implementing abortion reform as controversial as deciding on the principle

From the Asher’s case to abortion, individual conscience and the prerogatives of devolution greatly complicate reform beyond a straightforward appeal to human rights. Secretary of state Karen Bradley has been attacked for hypocrisy over personally supporting abortion reform while resting on her belief that the Northern Ireland public overwhelmingly support action by a Stormont that is non-sitting and in which there probably isn’t a majority in favour of reform anyway. She knows resting on constitutional propriety gets her off even … Read more