Theresa Villiers U- turn! Arch Brexiteer opposes free trade deal with US as ” threat to the Union”

25 May

An intriguing little Brexit story.  At a post- referendum conference in 2016 I watched flinching as Ireland’s most eminent public servant Peter Sutherland, former Attorney General, former EU commissioner, first head of the World Trade Organisation, chairman of BP etc.etc ( now sadly dead), tore into the UK’s decision to leave the EU as insane, disastrous etc., giving chapter and verse.  As he finished he admitted with a grin he’d been ranting. Batting for Britain was former NI secretary Theresa …

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The Protocol & lack of consent: the British government continues to gaslight Northern Ireland

22 May

Katy Hayward explains why the British government continues to gaslight Northern Ireland when it comes to Brexit. She argues that London needs to tread carefully when it comes to the democratic consent of Northern Ireland.  The much-anticipated (well, in some small circles) UK government command paper on its ‘Approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol’ has landed. Along … Continued

Will the promise of light touch, low regulation for the border in the Irish Sea at our ports be fulfilled?

21 May

If we have to have a border in the Irish Sea it would be great to keep it cheap and simple. That’s the powerful appeal of the British “Attitude to the Northern Ireland Protocol” available here in full. It contrasts with all the  complex thicket of  process in the EU version supported by a chorus of Europhiles.  After all the UK government should know; they will implement it not the EU. It isn’t at all clear how the EU can …

Read more…Will the promise of light touch, low regulation for the border in the Irish Sea at our ports be fulfilled?

Lockdown murder threats against Northern Ireland journalists prompt Stand up for Journalism campaign

20 May

Three rival Belfast-based newspapers have joined together in solidarity against threats from paramilitaries against journalists. A public statement declaring support for press freedom in Northern Ireland, signed by members of the UK government and the devolved Northern Ireland government as been published in the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and News Letter. It comes amid a … Continue reading “Lockdown murder threats against Northern Ireland journalists prompt Stand up for Journalism campaign”

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Behind the alarmist noises, the UK and the EU have the basis of a deal. It will be criminal if they fail

16 May

David Frost and Michel Barnier standing together ( just about) Lurking not far behind Covid is the self inflicted crisis over the next stage of Brexit.  To many including me, the prospect of a border at the Irish Sea is as revolting as a  physical border on the island of Ireland. It’s no consolation that there’s a disconnect between the political rhetoric and what’s actually happening on the ground. The government has privately conceded there will be post-Brexit checks on …

Read more…Behind the alarmist noises, the UK and the EU have the basis of a deal. It will be criminal if they fail

Why good talk radio output helps our discourse.

16 May

I wanted to take some time give a different view on the media and in particular the BBC output locally. Now before you say, yes I appear on the airwaves arguing the bit out on a particular issue. But i am genuinely a supporter of public service broadcasting and don’t begrudge the licence fee paying for the type of programmes that we just otherwise wouldn’t see. But the past six years has also given me experience of seeing how Ormeau …

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Mid-May update: Yes, there will be Northern Ireland trade barriers

15 May

This week Northern Ireland is back on the agenda, and the latest government decision signals a major u-turn – albeit one that experts have long predicted: there will be forms, checks, and barriers when trading between Northern Ireland and Britain. Ros Taylor and Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz (LSE) round up the week’s Brexit news. The government has confirmed there … Continued

Making the Irish Sea border work will require partnership, cross-border cooperation, and preparation

15 May

It’s official – there will be additional border control posts at ports of entry into Northern Ireland. An entry into Northern Ireland means an exit from Great Britain. But how can this be done? Katy Hayward and Tony Smith reveal the secret to making the Irish Sea border a smooth crossing. So, we finally have it … Continued

Victory for the de Souzas and for Irish citizens’ immigration rights: a battle that should never have needed to be fought

15 May

Yet another example of ignorance of Northern Ireland affairs in different parts of the UK government. Derry born Emma de Souza has won her three year battle to allow her American husband Jake to live with her, an Irish citizen in Northern Ireland, without having to renounce her birthright as a British citizen which she doesn’t want to exercise. She wants to bring him in under EU therefore Irish not UK immigration laws. Her victory is a triumph of principle …

Read more…Victory for the de Souzas and for Irish citizens’ immigration rights: a battle that should never have needed to be fought

Time to make academic selection History

13 May

Writing in last Friday’s Guardian on the 75th anniversary of VE Day , and seeking possible parallels between the social changes that followed the war and those which might ensue from the Covid pandemic, Dame Joan Bakewell singled out the significance of the introduction of the 11-plus examinations in 1944, which she credited with having ‘completely transformed schooling in Britain’. While most of the welfare state provisions that followed the war were piloted through by Clement Atlee’s post-war Labour government, …

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Re-placing Christianity After Lockdown

12 May

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near.” – Mark 1:15

“ We will not save a place we do not love. We cannot love a place we do not know.” – Baba Dioum (Senegalese Environmentalist) Ched Myers’ writing on Watershed Discipleship advocates for a Christianity that recognises we are in a watershed moment of interlocking crises of climate, consumption and ecological degradation. He calls for a refocussing of radical Christian discipleship on a bioregional basis of environmental …

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There is more than one vision of a new Ireland

12 May

I’ve yet to read Paul Gosling’s book with the vaultingly ambitious yet carefully ambiguous title “A New Ireland: a new Union, a New Society. “  Judging from the discussion and its antecedents from the Holywell Trust, it makes an important contribution to enriching the debate on the future of the island.  But the logic of ideas seldom reproduces easily in politics. Political will is something else entirely. Broadly there are two contrasting approaches to the future: to follow the logic …

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The suspension of Northern Ireland’s new abortion regulations under pressure from “pro-life” opinion is fake news of the UK government’s making

9 May

The Irish News story on 8 May THE British government last night withdrew controversial abortion regulations for Northern Ireland before they could be put to the vote in Parliament next week. It means that the regulations put forward by secretary of state Brandon Lewis at the end of March will not now apply. It is understood that the strength of the challenges faced by the proposed legislation, in particular at a Lords select committee, led the government to pull the …

Read more…The suspension of Northern Ireland’s new abortion regulations under pressure from “pro-life” opinion is fake news of the UK government’s making

Another case of perverse British exceptionalism rumbled late?

8 May

Peter Donaghy  vindicated! An FT exclusive picked up by the Guardian.. The government has left open the prospect of ditching its own contact-tracing app in favour of the “decentralised” model favoured by Apple and Google after it was revealed that a feasibility study into such a change is under way. After repeated warnings that the UK will be an outlier if it insists on using its own centralised app rather than relying on Google and Apple’s technology, rights groups and MPs said …

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Why the wall of silence over north-south Covid cooperation?

5 May

Whatever the reliability of the figures, it seems possible  that the Republic has been managing  Covid 19 better – or has been luckier- than Northern Ireland. Whether this can be accounted for by the incubus of UK delay and the complexity of a bigger country with an older average population will emerge from the inevitable spate of inquiries. But north -south coordination and  cooperation over phasing out lockdown would seem to be essential. And yet so little has emerged about …

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What’s in an app?

4 May

In relation to the cross-border use of the app, Mr Harris said inter-operability between EU member states and use of the app across the Border “presents specific challenges which have yet to be addressed”. “The specific challenge of North-South travel in Ireland and across the Irish Sea has been highlighted in EU meetings convened to discuss eHealth and the app.” There in a nutshell is a problem of the moment. How big a problem for the island is the choice …

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Boris Johnson’s perversity on the Brexit cliff edge reminds me of the Free State’s rejection of all things British

30 Apr

Warrenpoint Harbour The UK’s stubbornly negative  approach to future relations within the EU reminds me of the newborn Free State’s attitude to Britain after the trauma of independence. They can’t wait to be rid of even the symbols as well as the substance of the former power even  to the extent of trying to deny the facts of mutual interdependence particularly over the economy. Granted there are vital differences. No blood has been spilled over Brexit and… I was going …

Read more…Boris Johnson’s perversity on the Brexit cliff edge reminds me of the Free State’s rejection of all things British

Emma De Souza: a solution?

29 Apr

As we drift through another week in lockdown, it’s hard to believe that there’s anything else to discuss apart from Coronavirus. Thankfully, Northern Ireland’s unique brand of identity politics stops for no pandemic. Cast your mind back to last year and the case of Emma De Souza. I wrote about it here. Mrs De Souza’s case concerns Article 1(vi) of the British-Irish Agreement. That section states that the two governments recognise the right of: ‘…..the people of Northern Ireland to …

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Good time to bring merit in government back into electoral politics?

26 Apr

As we watch how our various ministers deal with the first genuine crisis of their careers, it seems like a good time to see if the management and emergence from Covid-19 gives us any ideas on how we can improve our overall governance in Northern Ireland. Paul Gosling uploaded an interesting article earlier this week in which he raised certain ways in which our system of devolved government could be reformed in the general interest. Paul’s focus was largely on …

Read more…Good time to bring merit in government back into electoral politics?

UK slips down World Press Freedom rankings as Northern Ireland threats continue

21 Apr

The UK has slipped down the world press freedom rankings after a year which saw reporter Lyra McKee shot dead and two journalists needlessly held on bail for months as a result of protecting their sources. Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres – RSF) has placed the UK at 35 out of 180 countries in … Continue reading “UK slips down World Press Freedom rankings as Northern Ireland threats continue”

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Northern Ireland is Caught in a Low-Level Equilibrium Trap…

21 Apr

In the 1950’s US economist Richard Nelson, who later became an advisor to President Kennedy, asked why underdeveloped economies failed to improve. His answer, published in 1956, was the low- level equilibrium trap. The theory suggests that poor countries, with low wages and profits, can’t afford to invest so growth is slow. As the economy gradually expands average wealth per person improves. However marginal increases in prosperity also increase population. As more people come onto the labour force the average …

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