The genie of amnesty is out of the bottle. Not the last word, but the beginning of the end.

The British government’s announcement of a statute of limitations has not only united all parties against them.  It has also exposed the weaknesses of everybody’s positions including their own. All  other parties are insisting on a role for justice while admitting there’s very little hope left of achieving it. As justice for victims and relatives is unobtainable in most cases, what is the point of holding out for years for the remote chance of a trial?  After decades of deadlock …

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Legacy: Who are we moving on for?

Northern Ireland, it seems, has a problem with moving on. Decades (centuries) of strife and conflict. The pain, the trauma, all of it passed down from generation to generation. In the year of our lord 2021, we’re still angry about it all. Still hurt, still frustrated and in pain. Step forward the Prime Minister and his Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis.  They have seen the light and taken a bold, brave step to help us move forward. The government has …

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This time, it’s the Troubles legacy. Northern Ireland opinion on a key issue, even when substantially in agreement, is being overruled by Johnson’s Conservatives

The devil will be in the detail but as a example of news management in advance, the UK Government’s plans for a Troubles amnesty could hardly be worse for opinion in  Northern Ireland Veterans who served in Northern Ireland are finally set to be freed from the threat of prosecution. In a victory for the Daily Mail, a planned statute of limitations will today be announced covering all incidents during the Troubles. The move by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is …

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The Northern Ireland Protocol: The High Court has its say

Who knew constitutional law could be so dramatic? The High Court has dismissed a legal challenge to the Northern Ireland Protocol by several unionist politicians. The political ramifications are likely to carry us through July, a traditionally calm month in Northern Ireland. As always when there’s a high-profile judgment, people will take what they can and use it for political capital. You wouldn’t think the unionist claimants had lost. Others seem to think the matter is settled and we should …

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How the NI Protocol protects the Agreement

To the chagrin of Unionist politicians, it’s often emphasised by the four governments (UK, Ireland, EU, and US) that the Northern Ireland Protocol exists to protect the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. For reasons which are understandable when examined in isolation, Unionism feels let down by the promise of the Agreement. I can see where they are coming from. The Agreement is based on cross community consent; the Protocol does not recognise this. British citizens are asked to …

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Arlene Foster, yes but spare us the revisionism.

Although by now it seems that the four days since Arlene Foster resignation as First Minister seems like ancient history, given all that’s subsequently occurred, it remains important that the appalling revisionism over her tenure is addressed – from a unionist perspective. In common with most ousted unionist leaders since O’Neill, Arlene is already being presented as a progressive moderniser undermined by the hardcore.  Her own allies are peddling this notion, as are nationalist commentators, both for their own ends. …

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The media’s role in peacebuilding: none of its business?

So is peacebuilding none of the media’s business? That was a conclusion that broadcaster and journalist, Declan Harvey, posed to a panel of fellow journalists and writers at an online webinar delivered through Belfast City Council’s PEACE IV Programme, which is funded through the EU and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Panellists Alex Kane, Amanda Ferguson, and Leona O’Neill shared their perspectives and experiences of reporting in Northern Ireland, answering questions from Declan Harvey and those submitted by …

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In the final report on unification referendums on the island of Ireland, the unionist case goes by default.

   First a critical  assessment of  the Report on Referendums within the island of Ireland by an old colleague with definitive cross border credentials, Andy Pollak,  A brilliantly reasoned but not balanced exploration of future Irish unity referendums….  If a majority opts for unification, then the transfer of sovereignty must occur, whether governing arrangements [for a new united Ireland] can be agreed consensually or not.” This is the report’s central contradiction (as it may be in the 1998 Agreement itself)…  This …

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UK Secretary of State Brandon Lewis champions liberal reform to save the Union and throws down the gauntlet to the DUP

This just could be significant.   In the Sunday Times, the emergence of a pro Union liberal reform strategy acceptable across the community from the British government. It appears  to remove the last vestige  of the UK government dancing to the DUP’s tune. At  the most sensitive moment imaginable, just before  Edwin Poots nominates a still unknown First Minister, Brandon Lewis  presents a frontal challenge to the DUP.  This has been simmering for some time but I never thought it would …

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Well, well, well-#AE2022 and that Lucid Talk poll

It’s early days, minds could change later, but the Belfast Telegraph’s latest poll will send shivers down the DUP’s spine. According to Lucid Talk, support for the DUP has dropped to 16%, the same as Alliance. Sinn Fein sits at 25%. Doug Beattie will take comfort from the figure for the UUP, up two points to 14%. A Sinn Fein First Minister has been a possibility since the 2017 Assembly election. Based on these figures,  Sinn Fein will clinch the …

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Militancy can only expose Edwin Poots’ weakness. Instead he can claim credit if David Frost delivers acceptable mitigation of protocol terms

The tempo of Protocol politics  is quickening. Fresh from  calling into the Arcadia deli on the Lisburn road ( a favourite haunt of  SDLP, Alliance and Green voters no doubt as it once was of mine ),  Brexit minster Lord Frost  has  issued what sounds like an ultimatum to the  EU. “If the Protocol operates so as to damage the political, social, or economic fabric of life in Northern Ireland, then that situation cannot be sustained for long”. The new …

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If Edwin Poots tried to crash the Assembly it would open the door to a border poll

Let’s assume Edwin Poots is a shoo-in for the DUP leadership. Comfortable in his minor elder statesman role at Westminster, Jeffrey Donaldson hasn’t the stomach for a contest. He might be willing to accept  it on a plate but that’s not going to happen. With more than a hint of desperation, some of us have been foisting the Nixon goes to China model onto Poots, meaning that the hardliner in politics may be better placed to compromise than the liberal. …

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The latest real world effects of the protocol standoff

There’s a mixed picture of trade in and out of both parts of Ireland, some of them temporary and perverse The good news?   Via Sky News   A lot of freight, up by 4.3% in February, is now sent from British ports to  Northern Ireland  on ferries and then driven down into Ireland. More goods are now moving between Britain and Belfast because freight can now be sent from Britain to Ireland through Northern Ireland without complex customs procedures. Ferry data analysed …

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Behind the Paddy’s Day rituals, how deep is the Stormont crisis?

With so much guff, bluff and ritual about it, St Patrick’s Day is a poor bellwether for judging the state of affairs in Ireland remotely – and perhaps no better on the spot either. One glance at privileged youff crowding Botanic Gardens in defiance of lockdown, you might have groaned with me: “ Not the Holylands again. “ However BBCNI’s news story was encouraging. St Patrick's Day: Police clear crowds at Belfast's Botanic Gardens https://t.co/Fp6LvjTOC8 — Darran Marshall (@DarranMarshall) March …

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Boris Johnson has refused Arlene Foster on the protocol. Both governments and the EU should now get off their high horses and fix it.

Time was when prime ministers visited somewhere they used it as the backdrop to make a substantial speech about where they stood on the policy or move things along.  Think back to Tony Blair’s “acts of completion”.  Can you imagine Boris Johnson submitting himself to questions about his post Brexit and pro Union strategies?  Nowadays it’s enough for Johnson to turn up for a box ticking exercise, high viz vested or in a white coat, elbows bumping, for a few …

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No mention of the fantasy Irish Sea link in Johnson’s plan to link up the UK. Is he quietly ditching it already?

The BBC is reporting that a feasibility study is being made into Boris Johnson’s crackpot scheme of a bridge or tunnel over the Irish Sea (with ample space for customs clearing stations no doubt).  But intriguingly   the prime minister makes no mention of it in an article he’s written for the Daily Telegraph announcing a new UK wide  transport strategy “ to strengthen the very sinews of the UK.” Very odd that he makes no mention of his current pet …

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How cold is your house?

I worked around the border for most of the past decade. I came to understand for the first time just how unnatural the border is to many people there as they go about their daily business. It gave me a very real and practical sense of their innate Irishness for the first time and I understand exactly why so many people in the border counties were so uncomfortable with Brexit. I shared their discomfort and voted to remain. But I …

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Bloodlands, the latest Belfast noir they’re calling it. Please don’t all swarm to Strangford Lough

Are you hooked on Bloodlands? (Sundays 9 p.m. BBC 1, iPlayer top slot).  If you haven’t it seen it yet  I won’t spoil the Goliath reference.  Jimmy Nesbitt is a grizzled PSNI detective Tom Brannick  bridging  a Disappeared angle  with  an Ulster Line of Duty. It’s the latest in the product line of creator Jed Mecurio’s love affair with making gripping TV series in Northern Ireland. Not quite as gripping as Line of Duty yet or as menacing and sophisticated …

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Boris’s burrow? Boring in more ways than one.

I do not promise an absence of any further puns in this piece. So last Sunday the big news was: we can’t put a bridge over the top of the Beaufort’s Dyke, so sure we’ll just build a tunnel round it.  It’ll only be 25 miles long. Except… The Channel Tunnel is 37.92km (23.57 miles) from the English coast under Shakespeare cliff to the French coast at Sangatte.  It takes a further 9.14km (5.68 miles) to reach the tunnel mouth …

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Do not let your loyalty become slavery

Seven weeks. That is the number of weeks since Christmas Eve 2020. Remember the day? The UK celebrated the “oven-ready” Brexit deal brokered with the European Union. A deal heralded by the British Government as the perfect Christmas present for all those within the UK. Seven weeks. That is the number of weeks it took for some members of the British Government to start murmuring discontent at their prestigious deal of leaving one union to solidify their own. “Teething issues” …

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