The long and winding road to dealing with the past stretches ahead at Westminster. Will it turn out to be a dead end?

All Northern Ireland parties and groups including victims are united on one thing. They are opposed to the UK government’s NI Troubles, (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill. Nevertheless the Bill began its long passage to become law – or not –in the House of Lords last Wednesday. The Lords debate presents a good opportunity to air the issues in one place in this lengthy post. A vote will eventually be held on whether to recommend scrapping the Bill entirely or heavily …

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Slugger Podcast looks at the State of the State

Powered by RedCircle The Slugger Podcast is back! In this episode, we are looking at the State of the State report which surveys the attitudes and opinions of sector leaders and the public about how they think things are going in the UK. we speak with Ed Roddis, Head of Public Sector Research and Marie Doyle, Partner at Deloitte This report is published by Deloitte, which surveys these attitudes every year. The research includes a survey by Ipsos UK of …

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The British and Irish governments mustn’t mess about. Time for Direct Rule by whatever name with Dublin support to tackle the cost of living crisis and move on to Assembly reform

We are teetering on a cliff edge of absurdity about calling an Assembly election “ nobody wants. ” From the DUP viewpoint Peter Robinson brilliantly  describes the contradictions in every party’s position except his own. He might have added that it was Chris Heaton Harris and his cronies in the ERG  who more than any other faction  got us into this trouble in the first place by championing a Withdrawal Agreement with the Protocol attached  under frankly false pretences. The …

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Good Friday Agreement ‘best thing that’s happened on this island in the last 100 years’: Coveney

Minister Simon Coveney TD, Ireland Minister for Foreign Affairs, resumed his speech that was interrupted by a bomb scare earlier this year in north Belfast. He was the keynote speaker guest as part of a series of seminars, “Building Common Ground”, organised by the John & Pat Hume Foundation for Peaceful Change and Reconciliation. After Minister Coveney’s address, there was a facilitated discussion with Claire Sugden MLA, a former Justice Minister. Father Gary Donegan reminded the audience that the event venue, the Houben Centre, is …

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Media’s role in mediating our ‘different psychic landscapes’

A set of current and former journalists shared their experiences and thoughts on the role of media and social debate across the island of Ireland. Hosted by the Irish Association, the event “Journalism without borders” attracted several dozen, including other journalists and commentators. The discussion explored what we think the public knows about society on both sides of the border, and why or why not that is the case. Indeed, Stephen Douds (president of the Irish Association) explained in his introduction a motivation …

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The political class will have to work hard to prevent Northern Ireland coming off worse in the UK government meltdown

As we treasure long memories in this distinguished forum, I offer 1973-4 as  the nearest parallel  to the  meltdown in government  we face today. In the UK as a whole the miner’s strike in 1973 produced power cuts and a three day working week.  Four months into ’74. Northern Ireland suffered its own exclusive version of power cuts all over again in the UWC strike, a loyalist revolt against the first fragile power sharing Executive that had been set up …

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The pennies are dropping: the UK government are starting to face reality over their mini Budget and restoring the Executive

By far the most important immediate question  for Northern Ireland is how to prevent the constitutional question dominating politics even more than before, at the expense of delivering government for  the people.  Apart from  threatening an Assembly election that would only increase instability, the British government has largely disqualified itself from influencing events in favour of a standoff over the Protocol, a problem they had exclusively had created.  Beyond formal courtesies the vital essential relationship  with the Republic went into  …

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Do they reelly, reelly want it? A reflection on “Ireland’s Future”

Not only in Dublin at the weekend  but for the whole series of conferences on Ireland’s Future,  the aims are first,  to add momentum to the eventual  creation of a United Ireland by convening a Citizens’ Assembly ; and two, to come up with a generous offer of unity unionists can’t refuse  – in both senses ;   impossible to refuse because so attractive, (the smiley version)  and   (hint of rough stuff)  because the numbers of nationalists North and south would …

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Peace Heroines: Spotlight on Stormont

The Herstory project, established in 2016 to elevate the stories of women in national histories, launched an art exhibition at the Long Gallery in Parliament Buildings, Belfast. “Peace Heroines” features nine vibrant, largescale individual portrait paintings by artist FRIZ — women who have made an indelible mark on the Northern Ireland peace process, including Monica McWilliams, Pearl Sagar, Linda Ervine, Pat Hume, May Blood, Ann Carr, and Saidie Patterson. Several took part in an event discussion with Herstory creative director, Melanie Lynch. After …

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Are border poll criteria an excuse for procrastination ?

Peter Kyle, shadow Secretary of State

This morning, on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, Shadow Secretary of State Peter Kyle made some comments during a brief interview with the BBC’s Darran Marshall on the question of the criteria to call a border poll (iplayer : interview begins at approx 18:45) which seems to have generated a frisson of excitement. The salient part of the interview is reproduced below, with my emphasis. DM : I want to talk to you about the constitutional position now. Do you think …

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Houses of sand: Unionism has a problem with younger voters. A huge one.

Whither the union. I find myself becoming weary as I write this. Articles about the demise of the union, about unionist malaise and mistakes, are so common these days that they all sound the same. I stopped writing them at one point because I had nothing new to add. Even now, people write these pieces with a weird air of arrogance. They want you to know that they and they alone have figured out that unionism is in a difficult …

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After the funeral of the age, back to the reality of today

The greatest public obsequies in history are over. The hangover begins now. The death of the Queen allowed millions to think of the nation as a big family which could unite at such a time.  Every nation or a distinct component of it needs an identity to survive.  For a large majority, the Queen was at the heart of it. Whether the unity survives both for the nation and- come to think of it- even the royal family- are quite …

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The enduring question about politics from the start of the Troubles: why has the middle class been so ineffective?

  I’m using my privilege as a poster here  to try to sum up a couple of posts by Frank Schnittger and myself which are about struggling to find meaning in the chaotic and long draw out course of the Troubles. I’d better be careful as this could lead to endless exchanges but I’ll draw the line here. Eventually  we all have more urgent topics to cope with like a rudderless government during an  economic  convulsion. I suppose I was …

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Try Talking to People for a change…

There have been a number of posts here recently about the unionist community, its failings (real and unfairly accused), its difficulties and most recently its need to “embrace its Irishness” as if it was a straightforward and simple issue. Too many of the comments thet followed them are generally well off the mark and border on the obsessive about the Unionist mindset from people outside that community with little grasp or genuine interest in its complexities. And little sympathy for …

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The real world is about the energy crisis, galloping inflation and strikes

Welcome to the real world,  far away from Irish identity neuroses and the Tory leadership race. The world of spreading strikes, galloping inflation and  energy prices. The  situation is changing so fast even the tabloids haven’t caught up with it yet.  On the Today programme this morning covered by The Times, energy  industry bosses are calling for the endless political battle to close early and emergency action  to be taken  before the next energy price cap kicks  in –  on …

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Leave futile arguments about equivalence aside. We all need to come clean about why the Troubles lasted so unforgivably long.

clock, alarm clock, watch

Belatedly I want to pick up from Mick’s treatment of Fionnuala O’ Connor’s   interesting question about origins, prompted by the inevitable controversy surrounding Michelle O’Neill. At the outset, I’m reconciled to the fact that my brief analysis, partly based like Fionnuala’s on contemporary observation, will be disputed. I want to be as fair as I can. There’s nothing more pointless than one sided polemic.   Her question relates to the present and future. To make ‘reconciliation’ possible do republicans have to …

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‘Just drawing support’ — Bill Rolston’s latest catch of mural hunting

Bill Rolston published the first volume of Drawing Support in 1992, which contained images of 100 murals from the previous decade. Thirty years later, the fifth volume has just been published, and at a Feile an Phobail event Rolston spoke about his never-ending “mural hunting”, accompanied by recollections of muralist Danny Devenny. Claire Hackett welcomed and informed the audience that in addition to the latest and previous volumes of Drawing Support available for sale here, Rolson, with Robbie McVeigh, are …

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‘A Long Night’s Journey into Day’ — distinguishing process and progress of reconciliation in South Africa

As part of the Feile programme of events, and supported by the Department of Foreign Affair’s Reconciliation Fund, the award-winning documentary film about South Africa’s truth and reconciliation process, A Long Night’s Journey into Day, was screened at the James Connolly Visitors Centre, followed by a comprehensive discussion with Professor Brandon Hamber, who shared his experience of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Screening The film covers four stories from the over 22,000 stories submitted to the …

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‘The South is not ready for unification’: Andy Pollak

The theme for the 35th John Hewitt International Summer School was “Finding the national: redefining home and country for a shared future”, which asked how much “home”, “country”, “identity”, and “nation” matter, or should matter in a shared future, and the experience of those who feel excluded from existing political structures. Speaking at the Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre in Armagh, journalist and civil activist Andy Pollak presented an appropriate talk, “The South is not ready for unification”. He …

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An example of leadership to follow

Electricity  bills set to soar to £500  a month in October, in my own area West London the electricity grid has hit capacity  and a ban on building new homes is in prospect  to 2035, rail  strikes with no end in sight, with nurses and teachers to follow and the possibility of a general strike to come…  Health and social care services in England face “the greatest workforce crisis in their history” and the government has no credible strategy to make the situation …

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