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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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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C’mon guys, the culture wars are over. Let’s make a proper peace.

The phrases “culture wars” and “identity politics ” are comparatively recent imports from America but people are using them as if they’ve been around forever. On the whole they are pejoratives, used by rightwing politicians  to denigrate or  “gaslight “ the slow march to freedom of  women however described, and ethnic and social minorities, by creating “wedge issues” to stir  up alarm and so divide and rule. Ireland as a whole was ahead of the game long ago. The rise …

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On one thing MPs are agreed: the EU need to show greater flexibility. So is the Protocol Bill only “displacement activity?”

The mouse didn’t roar as the House of Commons sent the Protocol Bill on its way yesterday. “Only if enacted” said an uncharacteristically strident Jeffrey Donaldson, would the DUP go back to Stormont, advancing the curious argument that the Protocol Bill would “give back to the elected representatives in Northern Ireland the power to take the decisions that they have not been able to take.”(It would give them to Westminster not Stormont). Most MPs including the Conservatives who spoke, were …

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Now we’ve got into an even bigger mess over human rights, courtesy of guess who?

If ever it needed reminding, the importance of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and its court in Strasbourg was underlined by the comments of the former Lord Chief Justice to MPs the other day.  As it stands Sir Declan Morgan feared that Westminster’s latest attempt at a Legacy Bill would be struck down by the Court as  in basic violation of human rights. But there is an even more fundamental dimension to this. ECHR rights are embedded in …

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Former chief justice’s frustrations boil over at deadlock over the Legacy Bill. He tells MPs : “people need a kick up the bottom.”

The former Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan allowed his frustrations to boil over at a hearing of the Commons NI Committee yesterday examining the government’s Legacy bill. The earlier draft Bill  dating back 12 years for a with a powerful Historical Investigations  Unit at its core which had been finally  endorsed by most local parties was abruptly scrapped by the British government and replaced by a radical new version for a de facto amnesty.   Not that they admit to …

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There are great dangers in Northern Ireland’s entanglement in the Tory Brexit mess. They must extricate themselves fast

From his analysis of the Protocol bill, I want to pull out Rafael Behr’s comments on how little Northern Ireland registers  in the wider media as itself, on merit . You can almost hear the groans from TV viewers,” Not Northern Ireland again”  in a situation even more incomprehensible to them than  the Troubles It isn’t every day that former prime ministers set old party enmities aside to deliver a unified message on a matter of national urgency. When John …

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Johnson sends an ultimatum to the DUP : return to the Assembly or we won’t proceed with the Protocol bill. Is the threat credible?

Political gaming  has intensified as the Times and the FT report that the UK government will not proceed with the Protocol Bill unless the DUP promises to return to the Assembly. As the bill will at best take a year to pass Parliament are the DUP being invited to buy a pig in a poke? Can this ultimatum over ride the DUP’s demands for “action not words?.  Is the briefing to the papers credible anyway except as short term pressure …

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Paras have at last told their grim stories of the Falklands War. With strong public support behind them, perhaps Troubles combatants would do the same

This week’s showing on BBC2 of the gripping  Our Falklands War: a front line story  will have forced comparisons and  contrasts with the Troubles. When I reported the Falklands War from afar in Buenos Aires I used to wonder how those spotty youths in ill fitting uniforms would fare against the elite of the British Army like the Parachute Brigade. Not well as we saw when 1000 of them surrendered to less than 100 paras at Goose Green, although the …

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How wise is it to play Protocol poker with a weak hand everybody can see?

What do you suppose Boris Johnson is up to with his on the face of it, kamikaze tactics over the Protocol Bill?  By pursuing the most aggressive line he seems determined to court a confrontation with the EU.  Can he be serious, even as a survival strategy? As Peston points out, where Johnson is on shaky ground is that within the Protocol there is explicit provision to suspend it, where there are ‘societal difficulties… liable to persist’ via its Article …

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Update: Tory civil war breaks out over the Protocol as reports say Johnson is backing an even harder line defying the EU

Larne Harbour 

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The Jubilee is over. Let it go, or will it linger?

Is it really 20 years since I was present at the Queen Mother’s funeral in the Abbey and later in the year, looked on open mouthed as Brian May plucked out God Save the Queen from the roof of Buckingham Palace?  Access like that went with the job then.  This time, it was the street party outside my block of flats in Ealing. Time for an outing of  my old Henry VIII costume I rashly thought, anything to liven up …

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The UK government must do better than this wretched legacy bill. But an amnesty is still inevitable

Last week the Bishop of Derry dedicated a garden to the memory of a 15 year old Derry boy Manus Deery, shot dead by the British Army in the Bogside on the 50th anniversary of his death. As the Derry Now website reported: Manus had just started working after leaving St Joseph’s Secondary School and was eating a bag of chips and carrying a comic in his back pocket which he had bought with his first wage packet… At the …

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It’s still worth taking a punt on Boris. This time it’s in his own interest to compromise with the EU

In my last post, I was a lonely outlier when I argued that we had nothing to lose by giving Boris Johnson a chance to see what he can deliver.  I did so in full knowledge of his record and reputation.  I am unrepentant. At least equally irritating as Boris is the solipsism that assumes Northern Ireland is centre of world attention and reduces outsiders like the prime minister to bit players  in what Churchill called “the fearful integrity” of …

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Give Boris Johnson a fresh chance to prove his sincerity and commitment. We have nothing to lose and much to gain

Ahead of his day in Northern Ireland, much media comment is focusing on Boris Johnson’s announcement of draft legislation later this week to unilaterally amend parts of the Protocol. This is both inevitable and regrettable.  Northern Ireland’s welfare is far more important than the abstruse game of higher politics. Boris Johnson’s article in the Belfast Telegraph deserves to be cautiously welcomed. It suggests a new level of engagement in all level of NI affairs even encroaching on  Stormont’s competences. Much …

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Incoherence in Westminster is just as great as chaos in Stormont

To use a well known term from political science, we seem to be in a right bugger’s muddle. Brinkmanship is the order of the day. Wobbling on the cliff edge is Liz Truss the foreign secretary, threatening to bring in legislation to allow business to disregard EU rules on GB-NI trade as early as next week. She argues  that existing  EU concessions would “ make things worse.” It focuses on the fact that grace periods mean the protocol is not …

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What is the point of Brandon Lewis?

On the Sunday Morning show on BBC 1, NI Secretary Brandon Lewis let slip that he’d “spent the week in the US”.  He also enlightened us that he visited Northern Ireland “most weeks” but didn’t say for  how long.  His most recent contributions are  in written statements urging the DUP to return to the First Minister post immediately and saying that No, he will not call an Assembly election early. These read as if they’re for the record rather to …

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A southern truth and reconciliation process meets with inevitable northern scepticism

A brave attempt to break the deadlock between the British government’s proposal for a Troubles  amnesty and the refusal  of all other parties and groups to contemplate it  received  an airing  in a webinar  last Friday hosted by UCD academics. (TRP) is a group of southern independent great and good.. Their webinar was chaired by an Irish High Court Judge Mr Justice Richard Humphries, so presumably  they have influence . They support the implementation of a ‘Truth Recovery and Reconciliation …

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A Troubles history based on British records will not be the whole story but it’s still worth it

Irish Times columnist and distinguished historian Diarmaid Ferriter dismisses the  British government proposal for an “official” British history of the Troubles. Although it could hardly be the last word, this is a project I believe is well worth exploring if it means opening state archives to independent historians. If an amnesty of some sort is passed, greater access to state records would be part of the deal, to accompany the end of prosecutions. While such a deal  would produce furious …

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