Care is needed to stop the wheels coming off the Good Friday Agreement

I suppose it was inevitable. On the fringes of Westminster politics the alignment of Leave with a Brexit Union and Remain with support for the GFA is hardening, as shown in reaction to the failure so far to restore Stormont. This is what happens when people dip into the issues and pull out again. Living with them requires steadiness. Former secretary of state, stout Brexiteer and Shropshire lad Owen Paterson tweets that the GFA “has outlived its use.” Kate Hooey, … Read more

London and Dublin must clear their lines for close cooperation on direct rule

Clarity rather than coyness is now needed over moves toward direct rule. Working on its  scope and duration is one more compelling reason for London and Dublin  to stick together.  On Monday at the otherwise disastrous Stormont meeting, Theresa May and Leo Varadkar pledged “to work together on a new plan on how to achieve a frictionless Irish border.” Good luck to them with that. On the continuing local stand-off, two elements are essential. Enough action must be taken to … Read more

Is the whole McElduff episode, the act, the debate and the resolution, the best we can do?

Alex Kane, the former UU press officer who writes for just about everyone, shared the benefits of his research on both sides with Irish Times readers this morning, before McElduff’s resignation. His point about “blind spots” was simple and deadly.

Read moreIs the whole McElduff episode, the act, the debate and the resolution, the best we can do?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

“As with the hardest essay questions, there is no right answer but many wrong ones.”

Writing in the Guardian, “former Downing Street Brexit spokesperson”, Matthew O’Toole [no relation – Ed] has some intelligent, and interesting, things to say about “the psychology of imagined identity” here, and the task facing the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, as well as the UK Prime Minister in the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. [Definitely no relation! – Ed] From the Guardian article As Bradley will discover, Brexit has unsettled one of the most intangible but … Read more

“This isn’t an issue about the mayor, the mayor was using his democratic right to use that casting vote…”

So says the Derry and Strabane District Sinn Féin Councillor Eric McGinley, a party colleague of the mayor in question, Sinn Féin Councillor, Maolíosa McHugh.  The Sinn Féin mayor had previously declined to meet Prince Charles when he visited County Londonderry last year to meet victims of flooding.  In his place, representing the office of the mayor, SDLP councillor John Boyle, the deputy mayor of Derry and Strabane, accompanied Prince Charles during the visit. The reason for the Sinn Féin statement defending … Read more

It may be that a combination of a Brexit that Republicans opposed and the failure of Unionists themselves to grasp the opportunity presented to them by the GFA that does most damage to the Union

John MacManus is a History Teacher in Northern Ireland Reading Andrew Gallagher’s ‘Making friends with the cat next door’ afforded me a free (albeit brief) through the looking glass experience. For reasons of space I’m going to largely ignore the ill- suited and inappropriate metaphor and focus on the significantly more problematic content. The article states; “Irish Nationalism is strategically very weak. Unionism has what they want- a blocking majority- but Nationalism has nothing that Unionism wants in return.” In … Read more

Making friends with the cat next door

One of the most disappointing things to come out of recent NI political history was Sinn Féin’s much-vaunted, but quickly forgotten, Unionist Outreach project. In theory, this had a lot of potential. In practice, it was like a toddler trying to make friends with a cat. To make friends with a cat, you have to make no mistakes. It doesn’t matter how many nice noises you make, or how nonthreatening you make yourself appear. One wrong move and the cat … Read more

“Any political party that vetoes the re-establishment of the Northern Assembly until further human rights are recognised (or not) is putting the cart before the horse.”

As Newton Emerson pointed out in Saturday’s Irish News, Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, and erstwhile “father of an all singing, all dancing Northern Ireland Human Rights Bill“, Professor Brice Dickson, has had something to say about ‘red lines’ and a ‘rights-based’ society.  From the Irish News article Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, Prof Brice Dickson, has penned a robust article in the Irish Times explaining that the Stormont talks issues Sinn Féin is describing as “rights” are … Read more

“The fact that all of the other parties in the Dáil rallied around to wave the green flag on Tuesday demonstrates not that the Government got it right but that it successfully pandered to populist sentiment”

In the Irish Times, Stephen Collins on the risks involved in the Irish Government’s public positioning over the ongoing Brexit negotiations.  From the Irish Times article The British government and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are the ones primarily responsible for Monday’s debacle, but the Irish Government didn’t exactly cover itself in glory. The way Tánaiste Simon Coveney jumped the gun with a premature radio interview on Monday morning and the subsequent mood music suggesting that the Irish side had … Read more

“ambiguity… appears to have led Dublin and Brussels to interpret it as a maximalist position, while the DUP believed or were led to believe that it would or could be minimalist.”

The parlous state of the Brexit negotiations has been generating more than the usual level of idle speculation, and arrant nonsense. [Including on Slugger? – Ed] No names, no pack drill… But there are some intelligent points being made, in some places, which are worth keeping in mind – if you are actually thinking about these things. Like other, usually reliable, observers, The News Letter’s Sam McBride, whilst initially a little puzzled by Monday’s developments, offered a coherent scenario yesterday. … Read more

Slugger TV reviews #UUP17 and the approach of the Unionist Parties towards a deal

Slugger TV is back for October looking at the Unionist Party conference and the approach of the UUP and DUP towards a deal. Going through all of this we have Alex Kane (Commentator), Sam McBride (Political Editor of the News Letter) & Allison Morris (Irish News Security Correspondent). David McCannDavid McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

LucidTalk Poll on a Border Poll & Irish Unity

Lucid Talk released a poll on Irish Unity and a Border Poll this morning. You can listen to the results here on U105 The poll found that more than 60% of respondents thought a poll should be held within the next 10 years. One of the more interesting findings was that 56% of the 18-44 year old respondents said they would vote Yes in a potential referendum. Overall around 55% of respondents favour Northern Ireland staying within the UK.   … Read more

On the Stormont deadlock, time now to test party positions and introduce a mediator

If the Irish Times is right,  Dublin HQ has prevented Michelle O’Neill from striking a  political deal.  It is a deplorable fact that throughout this 10 month deadlock, so little is reliably known about party positions beyond nods, winks and notoriously unreliable mood music. At least in the Brexit negotiations the principals give some sort of account after every session. Times have changed since 1998.  Then, reasons for secrecy were far more credible.  The main agenda for much of the … Read more

Check Your (unionist) Privilege

Northern Ireland has been such a pasty white place until recently. So much so, that in my teens I worried that I’d accidentally be a racist when I finally met some brown people. Thankfully there was a website for this – a university had set up a test, flashing images of white and brown people on the screen, asking quick-fire questions to test for unconscious bias. I passed. Not a racist. I thought I was off the hook. But as … Read more

A Question of Identity

The View presenter Mark Carruthers has taken a look into the complexities of identity in Northern Ireland. In his 30 minute documentary for Radio Ulster he speaks with academics, politicians and members of the clergy about their experiences with identity and what makes up a Northern Irish identity. As the radio programme starts, Carruthers points out the difficulties that people have in being able to actually pin point what actually makes up Northern Irishness or does such an identity even … Read more

“One of the things the independence movement hates most is that left-leaning people are against them…”

With the separatist Catalan government claiming that 90%, of 43% of the electorate, voted for independence, and ahead of a week of further uncertainty for all of Spain, the BBC’s Patrick Jackson gives a voice to some young Catalan Spaniards – some of whose views may, or may not, sound familiar…  ANYhoo… Here’s a lengthy excerpt from the BBC report. “We feel Catalan and Spanish and I’m not going to allow independence supporters to take my culture away,” says David. … Read more

Unionism isn’t ready for a deal anytime soon

Stormont is staring into the political abyss. It already was I hear you say, but over the past week the tone of compromise that gave a faint flicker of hope has all but disappeared. Unionism has marched right into a cul-de-sac nudged along by the current leader of the Orange Order who has about as much political wit as Jolene Bunting. Edward Stevenson said that “when language is used as a cultural weapon by political republicanism it clearly becomes a … Read more

Eastwood “I still know that the constitutional position will not be changed overnight even in with the upheaval caused by Brexit”

SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood gave an address to the D’Arcy McGee Summer School on Brexit and he made some interesting comments about how Unionist parties view comments on this subject from Nationalist leaders; I am conscious that unionism’s kneejerk reaction to this kind of language will be naturally defensive and some will automatically assume that I am speaking about some sort of sudden re-unification to avoid Brexit. Let me be clear – I am not. Of course my view as an … Read more

The 70th anniversary of the 1947 Education Act has lessons for the DUP

On a different tack the Bel Tel recently published a second article showing unionists in government in a more favourable light. This time it’s an article by Prof Graham  Walker of QUB  on the 70th anniversary of the the passage of the 1947 Education Act.  Would that today’s Stormont could agree on effective measures to replace that Act’s 11 plus and advance the cause of genuinely secular integrated education. But in its time the ’47 Act was a real advance … Read more