Rather than keep slagging off the DUP over the Protocol, let’s recognise their better points

Nerves on all sides are stretched like skins on a drum waiting to see what emerges from the forthcoming Protocol negotiations.  Every cautious word is parsed and construed for signs of progress or the lack of it. Make no mistake a big push is on for a positive outcome on two fronts; to end the deadlock in the relations between the UK and EU and to come up with enough to restore the DUP to the Assembly. Never mind the …

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Brilliant NHS!

purple and pink heart shaped illustration

  Here’s a happy story about the NHS- a very personal one for Christmas. In common with lots of other boomers  I know, one of my hips reached crisis point in my early 70s.  Last summer when I found it really tough to walk a mile I faced up to the fact that I had to do something serious about it. So I applied for an appointment with an orthopaedic consultant, expecting that the whole process would take a year. …

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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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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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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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There’s more to life than the Census returns on nationality

Photo Liz Truss UK Prime Minister. Gov.UK    The one topic that will completely overshadow all others, like the latest on the Protocol and even the energy crisis, is of course the invitation to another bout of identity wrangling over the Census returns. You could write it in your sleep. The figures on religion are yesterday’s story and the day before that.  So I’ll deal with the Protocol first. Good news from New York according to the FT after Liz …

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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 monarchy and its rituals may be valued and even enjoyed. But do not exaggerate their impact or confuse them with harsher realities

Marking the evolution of the British state has long been planned as part of the great festival of mourning now under way; but into what precisely is far from clear. The new King’s hectic tour of Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff punishingly close to his mother’s  death,can only be seen as a  conscious act to uphold the Union by popular consent.  The accident of the Queen’s death at Balmoral allowed for the staging of  powerfully affecting ceremonies in the matchless theatre …

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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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Imagining the moments when Northern Ireland might have avoided the Troubles. If Unionists had conceded freely what they were later forced to do under pressure.

After returning to the real world in my last post, I can’t resist entering the dream world again to accept Malachi’ O Doherty’s invitation to imagine a world without the Troubles. I do so more or less off the top of my head, recalling my own teenage memories of the 1960s when it seemed to coin a phrase, “ things could only get better “. I use the terms Catholic and Protestant, the social signifiers more generally used at the …

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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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Politics is becoming the new religion, with all the militancy of old. But in Ireland….

A sign displayed outside McQuiston Memorial Presbyterian Church in East Belfast in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Again, the mythological symbol of the rainbow is used.

Well meaning people in Ireland often like to claim that politics and religion are separate and that religion is all about love, reconciliation and goodness. We know what they mean but of course they’re wrong.  From time immemorial politics has been about power and religion about controlling people’s minds, “the opium of the masses” But Marx’s line underestimated the powers of its ideas to create an alternative social bond against an oppressive state and finally an identity.  And so religion …

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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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By public demand, a new Belfast Agreement is needed to transform our deadlocked politics

As sure as night followed day, the sonorous tributes to David Trimble flowed from those who in their day had stabbed him  front and  back.  Some were no doubt observing the Irish habit of never speaking ill of the recently dead.  Perhaps some rose above hypocrisy.   For behind the traditional political rhetoric lies latent acceptance that they are all inheritors of his legacy. As Trimble himself put it: In 2005 I came a cropper but, in the seven years between …

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David Trimble, the unlikely architect of peace who broke the mould of unionist politics for the common good

I never got to know David Trimble well but when I first met him in the early 1970s he was a bright young thing in Bill Craig’s Vanguard secession from the crumbling Ulster Unionist party. Vanguard held quasi- fascist rallies, flirted with the idea of loyal rebellion to take on the IRA and was passionately opposed to power sharing. Trimble was one of those who tried gave Vanguard intellectual gloss over the sinister threats of Craig and the foam flecked …

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The voice of sanity over the Protocol is drowned in Tory leadership Brexit frenzy

  Although by instinct I prefer to hunt for the substance behind political attitudes however perverse they seem, I’m reduced to calling the latest on the Protocol –   bonkers, plain and not so simple. The Tory leadership fight has tipped it into the surreal. First in a dash to complete his legacy, Johnson rushed to complete the Protocol Bill’s early Commons stages on the last full day on Thursday. Then it’s over to Lords in September and a new government. …

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If they choose anybody but Sunak, they’ll get a worse PM than Johnson

Photo courtesy ITV News  Mick may be aiming at higher things but I’m stuck down low and dirty in the Tory leadership contest. I can’t take my eyes off it.   Unusually the written press are ahead of TV thanks to social media with lots of talk about black propaganda, stalking horses and dirty dealing behind the scenes. So the first leadership debate on Channel 4 last night came as a welcome relief. Despite   overheated claims in the press that the …

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