Amnesty for security forces foreshadowed in the DUP deal

Just a footnote to yesterday’s post on the government’s floating of an amnesty for security forces. The Irish News follows up predictably enough with angry responses to what they rightly report as the adoption of the recommendation of the Commons Defence Committee report  just before the general election. The committee, which includes DUP MP Gavin Robinson, said that the pursuit of members of the crown forces was “wholly oppressive and a denial of natural justice”. “It can be ended only … Read more

For Westminster, Northern Ireland still isn’t a priority.

Patrick Thompson is a postgraduate student at Queen’s University, specialising in Northern Irish and Labour politics Last week a strange piece appeared on the news agency Bloomberg’s website about the Irish dimension of Britain’s decision to leave the EU. It was titled ‘Irish Border Throws Unexpected Hurdle to Brexit’. The notion that there is an open question around what Brexit means for the UK’s only land border isn’t groundbreaking. But the idea that this is a surprise most definitely is. … Read more

“it is tempting to conclude that SF has no strategy…”

From yesterday’s Irish News, Patrick Murphy, once again, making direct contact with the head of the nail. While the DUP’s future role in Westminster is far from predictable, it is easy to understand. Sinn Féin’s strategy, however, is less clear. Indeed it is tempting to conclude that SF has no strategy, other than to prolong the talks and hope for a lucky break, similar to the one the DUP received in Westminster. Sinn Féin collapsed Stormont because of the RHI … Read more

Update! Shock victory for free abortions in England for NI women as the government suddenly caves in to cross party pressure

The chancellor has just announced that the government intends to fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland. I recommend scrolling down the Guardian Live for the sequence of events ending in reverse order with the splash in George Osborne’s Evening  Standard, “Abortion Vote Chaos Hits May.” The Guardian believes this was done so fast and unexpectedly  to avoid  a Commons defeat on the Queen’s Speech, with some Tories supporting a Labour amendment  to introduce it. It carries a … Read more

Conservative pressure is increasing to allow NI abortions in England as a result of the deal with the DUP

The DUP deal with the Conservatives has elevated the refusal to allow Northern Ireland women free abortions in England under the NHS into a real issue in the House of Commons. And if Ian Paisley junior can be said to speak for his party (which is not always the case) the DUP may not oppose a change. This would help the party improve its image among the mass of MPs who opposed a deal with “dinosaurs.” Support for a change … Read more

And there could be more dosh to come! But the government rejects demands from a chorus of women MPs to fund abortions for NI women

The payout could be higher as a result of studies of the impact of lower corporation tax and scrapping air passenger duty.  In its financial analysis the FT points out that Costs will be higher if the renewed commitment to allow Northern Ireland to set its own lower corporation tax rate and air passenger duty results in lost revenues to the UK exchequer. The DUP has confirmed to the Guardian that they will seek assurances that the block grant will … Read more

First questions about the DUP deal with the Conservatives

Handing over the money is not contingent on restoring the Executive – at least in print. but it is clearly intended  to put pressure on Sinn Fein. If there is no Executive what happens with the new £1 billion and even the already promised £500 million? A budget has to be passed next month by the Executive or by Westminster. The DUP has accepted that the British government will be impartial  according to GFA principles for the Stormont talks and … Read more

Do we want Westminster to impose uniform UK standards? On abortion and same sex marriage? How about an indemnity for soldiers?

 Social reform – on abortion and same sex marriage – is not only a bone of contention in the Stormont talks. It’s creating a clash with MPs across party at Westminster at a precarious time for the future of both legislatures. The Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal against the decision of the Health Secretary for England Jeremy Hunt not to allow Northern Ireland women to have free abortions on the NHS in England may now become entangled in Westminster’s … Read more

“The DUP deal is in danger”

As many suspected… Sam McBride in the Newsletter reflects unease at the delay as well as DUP surface optimism that a deal is still on course.  Ken Reid of UTV tweets that a deal this week is unlikely. The delay can hardly be only out of respect for the still unknown number of victims of the Grenfell tower fire, certainly as far as the government is concerned . Mrs May is visiting the tower  today as well as  meeting  five … Read more

How can May encourage the other parties to the Stormont talks without disclosing the DUP deal? ( new version)

So after a confusing day against a background of tragedy in which it was first reported that the DUP deal would be postponed until next week, Theresa May  is meeting the other  Assembly parties without them. Make  of that what you will. All of Westminster will be agog . The elephant will be in the room in non-corporeal form. May can hardly  afford  to answer question one, can she? Mrs O’Neill has already made it clear she will raise the issue … Read more

Fears of a side deal with the DUP on the peace agenda are exaggerated. It requires cross community consent

So the DUP confidence and supply deal with the minority government will be delayed out of respect for the victims of the horrific North Kensington fire.  Mark Devenport has a credible analysis of the state of play. This leaves out saying anything definite about legacy matters that so spooked the political class over here when someone showed them the DUP’s 2015 manifesto.   The Guardian’s Home editor Alan Travis first raised the hare. The 12-page route map sets out a list … Read more

Westminster’s voting system turns elections into a tactical guessing game

As voters go to the polls, we can be sure that tactical voting has the potential to play a decisive role in who gets elected. Recent research commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society in Britain suggests that one in five electors there will vote for a candidate or party best positioned to keep out someone they disliked. This is also a familiar feature of Northern Irish political life, with the truth being that in First Past the Post elections people … Read more

London View of #GE2017: Quick thoughts on the latest polls and manifestos…

The poll trends remain good for May and Labour. The Tory strategy to liquidise UKIP and neutralise the Lib Dems could hardly have gone better. They have an average 17 point lead over Labour in all the polls in May. The perception which has concreted is that they will not just win but do so by a landslide. That still seems the most likely outcome. However their colossal leads have precipitated two unexpected events; a bolder than expected Tory manifesto … Read more

“So let nobody speak of a progressive or anti-Brexit pact either…”

In Saturday’s Irish News, Newton Emerson with some impertinent points about electoral pacts in the forthcoming General Election on June 8.  From the Irish News Sinn Féin has ordered the SDLP to stand down, although sadly not to dump arms, in North Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Let nobody call this a nationalist pact, as that would involve reciprocation and Sinn Féin has not offered to stand down anywhere.  Sinn Féin’s stance is doubly impressive when it risks handing … Read more

Gordon Brown storms in with a “third option” for Scotland and the UK. The ideal compromise, or too much, too late?

  Churn over Theresa May’s flat refusal to allow Indy ref 2 continues unabated. The reality of identity politics is proving a lot more complicated than the dream. The big move today is Gordon Brown’s “third option” of a federalising UK  of which more in a moment. But first a verdict on yesterday. May was caught short by Sturgeon springing the referendum demand on her. Did  the prime minister  over-react in haste and did she have only herself to blame … Read more

Theresa May launches high stakes confrontation with Nicola Sturgeon

The pace of big politics is quickening in the run-up to  pulling the trigger of Art 50.  In advance of addressing the Scottish Conservatives today, Theresa May says “politics is not a game and the management of devolved public services in Scotland is too important to be neglected.” But it’s high risk, high stakes  poker that the  prime minister and the first minister are in fact now locking themselves into.   May is calling Nicola Sturgeon’s bluff over the first … Read more

Scotland and Northern Ireland move centre stage, says Downing St. ” Save the Union” is the mission

Well what do you know? At the beginning of a very busy news week, the Times leads with a real revelation from right under their noses. After months of  patting the wee Celts on the head with bland assurances that Brexit will be fine all round, “sources “ now say that  “concerns about Scotland and Northern Ireland were discussed at last week’s cabinet.. and the impact of Brexit on the UKs devolution settlement is the government’s greatest concern about the exit … Read more

Welsh language to be allowed in the Commons

The Times (£) has more than one echo today.. After a six month campaign.. The government confirmed yesterday that it would bring forward a motion to allow MPs to speak the language when the Welsh grand committee meets in Westminster, despite rejecting the change last year on cost grounds. The committee, made up of all 40 MPs representing Wales, meets every two months. Chris Bryant, who campaigned for the change when he was shadow leader of the Commons, said he … Read more

Tony Blair has made the case for a rethink on Brexit and Northern Ireland will need a new financial deal. Is anybody listening?

Hurtling at us like a comet but unnoticed by the local worthies is the prospect for repatriating powers direct from Brussels to Stormont, Holyrood and Cardiff Bay. Among them are powers over agriculture and energy, which in Ireland are linked or integrated north and south. How they’ll be divvied up is  hasn’t  even been examined. The British government retain a substantial interest in these areas where powers currently rest with Brussels as it  negotiates new trading arrangements to replace membership … Read more

At home the ” running commentary” defence is under pressure. But at the EU summit, Theresa is limited to pitching ” over coffee” tonight.

 With the leak of Brexit cabinet committee documents and the Chancellor’s admission of tensions within  the committee itself, the UK government’s refusal to give “a running commentary” is under heavy pressure already. This morning in Commons questions, the Brexit Secretary still stalled on the details but insisted in general : Davis says the government will publish “much information” about its Brexit plans The SDLP were given a little outing… Mark Durkan, the SDLP MP, says employment law is a devolved … Read more