On the doctrine of inevitability

The News Letter had an interesting article a short while back, reporting remarks by Alex Easton in respect of a border poll and the Irish reunification debate. It is not clear in which context he made his comments, but the headline is that he speculates that nationalists will “inevitably” lose a border poll, and recites a few other well-known tropes. I am not a nationalist, but I feel that his comments reflect beliefs prevalent within unionism around how people like me …

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United pressure on Sinn Féin may be needed to break the legacy payments deadlock. Their own will benefit

dFM Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin Has Martina Anderson’s outburst distracted attention away from the substantive issue of the legacy payments deadlock, or given a boost to resolving it, following the court case requiring Michelle O’Neill in effect to remove her veto or exercise her option to resign? The scheme covers violence related to the Northern Ireland Troubles between 1966 and 2010, including incidents in Great Britain and Europe.. . People will get between £2,000 and £10,000 a year for the …

Read more…United pressure on Sinn Féin may be needed to break the legacy payments deadlock. Their own will benefit

Alliance: Now (or never) is the time to move beyond sound bite success to real world delivery…

In earlier articles I’ve written that as someone still fundamentally pro-union. To recap, I’ve felt electorally disenfranchised for quite a long time by two unionist parties that have refused to reflect my general social outlook. Apart from a vote for David Ervine in East Belfast in 1997, I voted UUP. They lost me post-Trimble. So, I’m politically homeless. Like many on either side of the community. The Alliance Party should fill that void. But it doesn’t. Not because it is …

Read more…Alliance: Now (or never) is the time to move beyond sound bite success to real world delivery…

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. …

Read more…Shared or united island? The Greens called it right.

Stormont has just performed better than Westminster. Signs of a new era dawning for the Northern Ireland Assembly

Social distance voting at Westminster. Just as Westminster makes an ass of itself over voting against digital voting,  Stormont enters a more hopeful new era. It’s  complicated, even tortuous, but that’s a positive virtue compared  to the old familiar choice between deadlock and carve up. Correction I earlier reported the voting wrongly for lack of  information. It  was  even more complicated than I supposed. I’m  indebted to Sam McBride of the Newsletter for explaining how the DUP  and Sinn Fein …

Read more…Stormont has just performed better than Westminster. Signs of a new era dawning for the Northern Ireland Assembly

Abortion as an individual human right or by the will of a majority? The NI Assembly wants to “send a signal”

Heidi Crowter, anti-abortion campaigner   Do the new regulations permitting abortion in Northern Ireland extend to foetal abnormalties like Down’s syndrome or not? Behind the question is a constitutional argument over  whether Westminster had the moral right to enact an abortion law over the heads, even when they were in suspension.  But although the DUP and SF seem to be in broad agreement, they seem to be content to win two separate  majorities by designation rather  than go for an overall …

Read more…Abortion as an individual human right or by the will of a majority? The NI Assembly wants to “send a signal”

Pressure for a Troubles amnesty continues to mount.

Denis Bradley, the co-author of the original report on Dealing with the Past thirteen years ago which  has never been improved on, has come up with an extraordinary argument for what reads like one step away from an amnesty for the Troubles. In this he joins the local academics who for years had been arguing that  assessment of the evidence against both the security forces and paramilitaries should be  independent from the usual institutions of the state if it was …

Read more…Pressure for a Troubles amnesty continues to mount.

Good time to bring merit in government back into electoral politics?

As we watch how our various ministers deal with the first genuine crisis of their careers, it seems like a good time to see if the management and emergence from Covid-19 gives us any ideas on how we can improve our overall governance in Northern Ireland. Paul Gosling uploaded an interesting article earlier this week in which he raised certain ways in which our system of devolved government could be reformed in the general interest. Paul’s focus was largely on …

Read more…Good time to bring merit in government back into electoral politics?

From abortion to coronavirus, Westminster rule is still decisive – if they choose to exercise it

The situation is replete with irony.   In the absence of the Assembly a formerly inert Westminster sprung into life to enact three controversial reforms; on same sex marriage, victims’ pensions (pending) and most controversially of all, abortion. Sinn Fein which only acknowledges any legal British authority over Northern Ireland with the greatest reluctance warmly welcomed Westminster’s imposition of the most radical shift possible from the most restrictive to the most sweeping abortion regulations in these islands; while the defenders of …

Read more…From abortion to coronavirus, Westminster rule is still decisive – if they choose to exercise it

There’s more to it than polling. Ireland needs more than one choice of political future.

Although Irish unity has been a common obsession for more a century we can only marvel at how little it has been considered as a realistic proposition. In the Republic Sinn Fein’s surge at the general election has promoted it to a higher but still uncertain place in an agenda preoccupied with economic reform.  In the GFA, the issue was from the start insulated from what really mattered at the time, the  winning of the peace and the  effective operation …

Read more…There’s more to it than polling. Ireland needs more than one choice of political future.

We have a piece of paper… it looks like a Stormont deal, tbc

Have we got a deal that the DUP and Sinn Fein sign up to or not? By Thursday midnight, it wasn’t clear. Will all parties turn up to the reconvened Assembly? By the time you read this we should know. In the meantime we have – a document .. But Arlene Foster’s verdict looks favourable.. “On balance we believe there is a basis upon which the Assembly and Executive can re-established in a fair and balanced way… This is not …

Read more…We have a piece of paper… it looks like a Stormont deal, tbc

If one last heave after Xmas fails, the people should vote to dismantle the mutual DUP/ Sinn veto

The Newsletter editorial is full of alarm and self pity. Its  vehemence is slightly surprising as the paper has been no critical supporter of the DUP. It has been highlighting  their weaknesses throughout. So it  cannot  be greeted just  by schadenfreude.  It needs a considered answer.    For three years, no Conservative and Unionist (as they sometimes style themselves) minister or prime minister has uttered a word of criticism of Sinn Fein. Think about that. The crisis in the NHS …

Read more…If one last heave after Xmas fails, the people should vote to dismantle the mutual DUP/ Sinn veto

This is no narrow nationalist victory. It is a demand to make power sharing work

DUP 8 seats (-2), 30.6% (-5.4%) SF 7 seats (nc), 22.8% (-6.6%) Alliance 1 seat (+1), 16.8% (+8.9%) SDLP 2 seats (+2), 14.9% (+3.2%) UUP 11.7% (+1.4%) Let’s say it clear.  This is a great result for Northern Ireland. It’s simplistic to call it a victory of nationalism over unionism. It shows that voters on both sides of the divide are capable of breaking out of the monolithic duopoly.  The DUP and SF have been punished for Stormont deadlock and …

Read more…This is no narrow nationalist victory. It is a demand to make power sharing work

Distrust in politicians? The answer lies in ourselves

PA Media, Reuter’s, AFP  Whatever the result of this election, it will be greeted mainly with foreboding outside the ranks of the winning party, an interlude rather than a denouement  in the tortured saga of Brexit. Trust will remain as elusive as ever as another chapter of story is opened.  The campaign is riven by lies and fantasy. There is a chorus of comment along these lines in the London papers today. What impels politicians in these directions?  We can …

Read more…Distrust in politicians? The answer lies in ourselves

This Strangely Misfiring Tory Campaign Just Makes Me Wonder

This is a very strange election campaign from the Conservatives. The Tory messaging for the final week is all wrong. My browser is full of Tory ads calling on me to “Get Brexit Done” when everyone knows Boris is all about that; if anything, they risk alienating the key group of Remainers who voted Tory in 2017. The Tories are currently hanging on to just five-eighths of these voters, and any further slippage could be fatal. As far as potential …

Read more…This Strangely Misfiring Tory Campaign Just Makes Me Wonder

The party leaders are losing control of the election debate

Almost single handedly the BBC interviewer Andrew Neil is exposing the thinness of the  main party leaders arguments – even those of  the normally poised and practiced Nicola Sturgeon. who was rattled as never before.    A minority Labour government would not need to be the SNP’s suitor – the SNP have nowhere else to go. A second referendum overturning the result of the first would deprive her of her best argument for Indy Ref 2. Would the EU welcome …

Read more…The party leaders are losing control of the election debate

“Next Generation Unionism?”

As anger over Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement grows, one group of unionists has put out an “anti-betrayal act” poster. It sums up the current state of unionism. The poster portrays a baying mob with pitchforks. Apparently all unionist men dress like junior members of The Bar Library and work in an office. The language used is macho and patriarchal. There are no women on the poster, presumably because they’re all at home rolling their eyes. The poster comes at a …

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Now and Then

TW: This article contains references to sexual and domestic violence. On the 24th October 2017, the UK Supreme Court considered Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. The case was taken by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. In its judgment on the 7th June 2018, the Court found that the Commission did not have standing to take the case but found, obiter, that Northern Ireland’s laws breached Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The High Court in Belfast made …

Read more…Now and Then

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 …

Read more…Total Recall: Assembly Edition

Johnson may be a zombie PM but he could still win through, as the combined Opposition are united only on barring No Deal

After suffering three defeats in two days, by early next week Boris Johnson may well be forced to swallow his words and accept a Commons majority Bill to ban No Deal. The pressure on Labour would then become irresistible to lift their ban on a general election. But that poses at least two dilemmas for Labour.  Do they follow Corbyn’s instinct and go for an election almost straight away on say 15 October, two days before the EU Council meeting? …

Read more…Johnson may be a zombie PM but he could still win through, as the combined Opposition are united only on barring No Deal