What is a shared island?

I am but a mere local political commentator who occasionally gets asked to do TV and radio. Occasionally I regurgitate my annoying opinions in written form. Thanks to my involvement with an upcoming Institute of Irish Studies project, I got the opportunity to ask the Taoiseach about the new Shared Island Unit. There were scenes on Whatsapp when I told my mum what I was doing. “Martin or Wee Higgins?” she texted, getting mixed up. In his speech, Micheál Martin …

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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

NI Executive Office acting unlawfully in delaying introduction of victims compensation scheme

Not unexpectedly, given Mr Justice McAlinden’s comments during the two-day hearing, Belfast High Court has ruled that the NI Executive Office is, indeed, acting unlawfully in failing to implement the victims payment scheme.  Or, rather, the NI deputy First Minister is acting unlawfully… From the summary of judgement [pdf file] It is incumbent upon the Executive Office to forthwith designate a Department under paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 1 to the Victims’ Payments Regulations 2020 to exercise the administrative functions of …

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NI deputy First Minister “choosing to ignore the requirement to comply with the rule of law to express a political advantage”

Worth noting the comments of Mr Justice McAlinden in Belfast High Court today, having read the arguments put forward in an application for a judicial review of the NI Executive Office’s failure to introduce the victims payments scheme.  Or, rather, Sinn Féin’s refusal to implement the scheme…  From the BBC report “I see it as one element within the Executive Office deliberately choosing to ignore the requirement to comply with the rule of law to express a political advantage,” Mr …

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Northern Ireland Centenary: This country

This is about the centenary of Northern Ireland. But first, a slight detour. In Lucy Caldwell’s, ‘Multitudes,’ one of her characters describes the heartache of watching her teenage school friend move from Northern Ireland to England. “They’ve had enough is what Susan’s mum says. She just can’t take it anymore. ‘This country,’ she says to my mum. ‘This country,’ my mum says back to her, and neither of them says anything else.” The scene has always stuck with me because …

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John Hume: A Story Not Yet Fully Told

John Hume chose to live with purpose. He was steadfast in his determination to see peace and a better life, not only for those from his own community, but for all people across the island of Ireland. Elected a Member of the European Parliament in 1979, he would go on to serve as MP for Foyle from 1983 to 2005, and member of the Legislative Assembly for the same constituency between 1998 and 2000. He defined future generations opportunities when …

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Occasionally political decisions give observers a glimpse into the heart of a political party…

George Osborne’s decision to cut the higher rate of tax while cutting welfare benefits in a time of austerity betrayed a heartlessness that the Tory party has struggled to disown. Sinn Fein’s decision to turn Bobby Storey’s funeral into a mass celebration of Republicanism in a time of global pandemic lockdown was very revealing. The party which lead the way in calling for lockdown and was most opposed to relaxing restrictions; the party which opposed the opening of cemeteries to …

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Spinners and Losers: Sinn Fein cool the heat…

As ‘crematorium-[side]gate’ moves into its second week, and the legislature bit its gums into a non-legally binding motion, it appears as though the heat is shifting. The media are now fixating on two Belfast city council big hitters (BBC): The Belfast Telegraph is reporting the council’s chief executive Suzanne Wylie and director Nigel Grimshaw have lodged a formal grievance with a solicitor. They are said to have warned they may resign if “concerns are not resolved”. What I find remarkable …

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“This decision is directly, but not solely, related to the issues which arose around the Bobby Storey cremation.”

As BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport said a few days ago, there is “No prospect of Stormont falling.”  That doesn’t mean there might not be casualties elsewhere… Having apologised in public for “operational decisions” around the Bobby Storey cremation at Roselawn Cemetery, the Belfast Telegraph reports that Belfast City Council Chief Executive, Suzanne Wylie, and director of city and neighbourhood services, Nigel Grimshaw, have lodged a formal grievance with the city solicitor, and have threatened to resign “if [their] …

Read more…“This decision is directly, but not solely, related to the issues which arose around the Bobby Storey cremation.”

Loyalism must succeed where Sinn Fein has failed…

Moore Holmes is a Loyalist from East Belfast. You can find him on Twitter I have a fond memory of my dad telling me how foolish he thought the phrase, “learn from your mistakes.” Each time it came up in a conversation, he’d half-chuckle and half-scoff, provocatively asking, “why not learn from someone else’s mistakes and save yourself the hassle?” Although my dad would be at pains to point out that I’ve sung “Fathers Advice” far more than I’ve ever …

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The obligatory post about the latest Stormont crisis…

ANOTHER crisis at Stormont? I suppose it’s another sign that we are getting back to normality. Plus ça change… I can’t think of anything to say on the issue that you have not heard a million times before, so I will leave it up to you to give your take in the comments. In other news, I see Paddy Raff has gotten himself a new show with the BBC, well done to him. The first post-lockdown pint didn’t go quite …

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Social Distancing Hasn’t Gone Away, You Know…

The Health Minister comes across as an extremely likeable fellow. Standing atop his podium, like an experienced but weary plumber, the civil and utterly decent Robin Swann is ever ready to plug any leaks in the flow of public compliance and adherence to Covid-19 guidelines. Despite having his feathers ruffled at the beginning of April, Swann took a dignified stance yesterday and opted not to weigh in with his own personal criticism of a certain someone’s attendance at a certain …

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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 …

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Why Sinn Féin should retire Tiocfaidh ár lá…

This week marks the 39th anniversary of Bobby Sands death, the first and most infamous of the ten IRA men who perished in the 1981 hunger strike. These fatal protests were a dramatic inflexion point in the Troubles with immense consequences – both accelerating the brutal violence and, through the election of Sands as a British MP, sowing the seeds for Sinn Féin’s successful entry into politics. The events sharply divide opinions, now as then, but whatever your view, most …

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Not even a global pandemic can bring Sinn Fein to welcome help from the Brits…

Sinn Fein’s recent criticism of Stormont’s Health Minister Robin Swann was a curious occurrence in even more curious times. The UUP MLA’s decision to utilise the UK military to support logistic functions like distribution of PPE and construction of a NI Nightingale facility, was layered with realism, a sense of urgency and for once, relative political neutrality.  And yet, Michelle O’Neill criticised the decision, based not on the intended use of the UK military, but on the lack of consultation that …

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Varadkar is having a good crisis. This it seems, is not the time to object.

The Republic are doing things a little differently: joining an EU  initiative to procure much needed ventilators, sending an Aer Lingus plane to China for hospital workers’ PPE; the Gardai Commissioner calling for people in the streets to produce IDs, off licences to stay open  in contrast with  GB. The North at first followed the GB rules but has now fallen into line with the south. The consequences if the northern ban remained in force if a hard Prohibition border …

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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 …

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Opinion on a border poll “on a knife edge” – the latest from The Detail

Here we go again.  Just a bit of cross posting here to draw attention m to a special edition of The Detail, about a border poll. The comment is based a Lucid Talk opinion poll conducted north and south, showing opinion “ on a knife edge” –   46.8%  to stay in the UK and 45.4 % for a United Ireland. The disparity now among three polls in succession can partly be accounted for by different methodology, this one on line, …

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A border poll yields pride of place to good government at Stormont. Will the parties get the message?

We’re told it’s the most thorough survey of political attitudes in years                      (what, more than the NI Life and Times surveys?). It shows the graph has tilted over a just a little more in favour of united Ireland, confirming that those who Don’t Know or declined to answer – an  odd description of the middle ground – hold the balance.  I’m caught between concern about growing tension as the day …

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Now the counting is over, what does the Irish political landscape look like

Change. Such a simple word, yet if we could sum up this election, it really was about change, not just for its own sake but ambitious change. A sense that the country was heading in the wrong direction and despite record growth rates, a large section of the electorate opted to take a punt. Fed up of paying high rents, having their children living with them and the cost of everything rising, they looked at who embodied that ambitious change …

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