Changing Shared Island to Shared Ireland will invite defence, not collaboration.

brown and black violin

There was much packed into the recent Ireland’s Future event at the SSE arena but little debate. Apart from the mild rebuke of former UDA member and loyalist politician David Adams arising from comments by an unnamed member of the Irelands’ Future Board in a newspaper column, most of the panel members were of the same mind. Presumably, happy contributors to what Professor Colin Harvey referred to as “the growing coalition for constitutional change”; sharing common if narrow purpose and …

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Reality check for unionism finally arrives: Better late than NEVER, NEVER, NEVER…..

person standing in cave

In encounters with Sinn Féin groups in what they chose to term ‘uncomfortable conversations’ and individuals promoting a future Ireland in line with their nationalist. usually republican ideology and agenda, I have failed consistently to get an answer to the question: “What will this new Ireland that you envisage look like?” The stock answer is usually spun around a need to engage on a range of matters- economic, cultural, educational, the long-standing movable feast of reconciliation and symbols. The territorial …

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Have we just witnessed the final swan song of 100% Unionism?

lighted fireplace

Speaking at the Agreement 25 event held in Queen’s University in 2023, Senator George Mitchell, in a well-received and challenging speech, referred to those whose politics produce unbending, doctrinaire and uncompromising negotiating positions as the ‘100 per centers’. It was clear in the context prevailing at the time that the finger of suspicion, in the mind of most of the audience, pointed to the Democratic Unionist Party. It could have included the EU, Brexiteers and Remainers who played out a …

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NI 21 is long gone but maybe it wasn’t the worst of ideas.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy on the new; not on fighting the old but ib building the new” – SOCRATES It was quiet in the leader’s office as we awaited the arrival of the party officers. Just the Director of Communications and me. “What we need is a swap Unionist day.” I explained: “If everyone in the UUP who could fit into the DUP and those in the DUP who could fit into the …

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The DUP: Will they; won’t they? Oh yes, they will; oh no, they won’t?

people, men, thinking

The Stormont saga; not so much a pantomime, even with a ‘dastardly’’ Secretary of State prepared to push ethical standards of governance to the margins, as another act in a tragi-comedy. It awaits key players to perform their designated roles. In 2020, when the Julian Smith MP and Simon Coveney TD crafted New Decade, New Approach led to the resumption of the NI Assembly, the public response, beyond the political arena, was muted and underwhelming. Not unlike the faces and …

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Can ‘cradle to the grave Unionism’ live with being a little less British?

Quaint river town

“My grandfather was a Unionist; my father was a Unionist. I was born a Unionist and I will die a Unionist”. In similar mode, DUP MP Carla Lockhart speaking at the 2023 Party Conference referred to having grown up in a ‘Paisley-ite family’ and still wearing the term ‘with pride.’ Passionate assertions like this are indicative of ‘cradle to the grave protestant Unionism’; encrusted by conflict and a sense of betrayal. Electoral fodder with gravitational pull for political ambition, it …

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Politics of the tin ear in Londonderry, but unionists haven’t gone away, you know!

GINZA

“Why do Sinn Féin always refer to difficult conversations rather than just conversations?” “Maybe they are difficult for republicans” was the reply. It became clear at a recent meeting of the Commission on the Future of Ireland in Derry/Londonderry what the speaker may have been referring to. The gathering was weighted towards Sinn Féin’s agenda with Declan Kearney introducing the event in his capacity as Chair of the Commission and local Sinn Féin MLA Pádraig Delargy welcoming an audience which …

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Republican thinking in Derry/Londonderry swiftly retreats from its local power sharing arrangements

activity, adventure, wallpaper hd

By 2013, when Derry/Londonderry hosted the UK City of Culture, the 2002 warning of Church of Ireland cleric Kenneth Good, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe that Unionists in the city felt ‘frozen out, alienated and insecure’ carried less resonance. Taking the view that ‘it is their city too’, civic unionism in the shape of cultural and community organisations displayed a willingness to participate inclusively in the various events, not least ‘fleadh cheoil’; something that organisers were keen to achieve. With …

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Is the DUP’s NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER Unionism about to be de-commissioned?

trees, path, forest

There may not be demonstrations outside the Waterfront Hall or numerous meetings in the Ulster Hall, Stormont Hotel, the Ramada and elsewhere but this does seem like a ‘Good Friday Agreement’ moment for the DUP and its leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP. In his quieter moments, of which there may not be many at present, is he having a déjà vu moment about his role in the opposition to the leadership of the late David Trimble; was Brexit such a …

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It takes a spider to repair its own web ………

cobweb, web, dew

EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said recently in London, the only thing he regrets about Brexit is: “the UK leaving the EU.” Like the aristocracy of Renoir’s “La Grande Illusion”, it seems that Barnier stands above the political turmoil. It is interesting how his words and analysis diverge from the comments of Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD; that all sides engaged in framing the different elements of the TCA and Ireland/NI Ireland Protocol “made mistakes.” Whilst he did not go into …

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The political Unionist cake is not growing. Only who wins the bigger slice alters.

cake, cheesecake, cinnamon sticks

A publication for Church leaders recently headlined ‘the rise of the ‘dones’; a growing number of people who are ‘done with the Church.’ They have not abandoned their faith but have ‘de-churched.’ Attendance figures bear this out. One interviewee commented: ’they have heard it all and are tired of the same routine; being lectured to without any meaningful engagement or participation.’ Church scandals have played their part. The situation resonates with Northern Ireland as political parties exhibit a ‘this is the way mentality’; that …

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Why Unionism cannot afford to divert attention from its own failings any longer.

board, write, change

The publication of the Census Statistics prompted, predictably, a flurry of party and non-party political commentary In an indication that Catholic Nationalism is alive and well, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP referred to the increase in the Catholic population as a ‘seminal moment.’ At least he spared us the ‘hand of history.’ Sinn Féin MP, John Finucane, in comments close to those of ‘Ireland’s Future’, Professor Colin Harvey, who spoke of ‘seismic change’, welcomed ‘irreversible change.’ Green peas in a pseudo …

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In view of recurring cultural controversies could we turn to a cultural, commemorative and celebratory Accord

ice cream, cone, strawberry ice cream

No matter how comfortable the pace and how stirring the music, it was a long walk on a very warm day for the Apprentice Boys of Derry who journeyed to the city with families and friends for the first time since the pandemic to attend the 2022 ‘shutting of the gates’ parade and pageant, enacted by a diverse range of performers. This may go some way to explain the evident fatigue of bands and marchers with what resembled the drains …

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Truth awaits the de-commissioning of a Sinn Féin culture of fact manipulation and the crescendo of silence offered to victims.

Secret

A connection between Claudy and Atlantic City may seem somewhat incongruous. As author Felicity Hayes-McCoy suggests in writing about memory, history and remembrance: “layers of emotion, inclination and unconscious prejudice intervene when looking back.” Atlantic City, NJ was a tacky and rundown place in 1972. Gambling had just been approved by the New Jersey legislature but the casinos had not yet opened. With the Godfather still showing in cinemas, there was chat locally that the Mafia was on their way. …

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Embedding the protocol within a constitutional/identity gridlock undermines our shared future

hd wallpaper, nature wallpaper, red meerkat

Unionism cannot be boxed into one definition, however broad opinion, within the pro-Union and the middle ground Unionist constituency, beyond loyalism, the Orange Order, bonfire groups and attendees at pre-election rallies, is hardening towards the ‘Protocol’. It is now firmly rooted within constitutional and identity issues; not viewed as a destination but as a process shaped by EU rigidity that will take Unionism to a divergent and politically homeless place where it does not wish to reside. Talk of protecting …

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Present tactics may ensure that in seeking to save the Union, political Unionism destroys it.

rats leave sinking ship, sea, lighthouse

There is much to admire about the United States of America. The dollar dictatorship of US politician Richard Neal, Chairman of the Friends of Ireland, is not one of them. Apart from his persistent but poorly informed belief that the United States is a co-guarantor of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, his approach to the internal politics of Northern Ireland exemplifies denial of the historical stains of armalite politics; a circular exchange of ideas with those sharing similar sentiment and a synthesis …

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Solution to protocol stand off could be an extension of grace periods and experimentation before local consent in 2024…

laptop, office, hand

One of many, Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD, has talked of a ‘landing zone.’ Fine Gael Senator Emer Currie has referred to there being a solution if we can find one, or words to that effect. Hardly a confidence builder? In Northern Ireland, recently elected MLAs, reflecting the intensity of politics in a small place, are digging themselves deeper into the rutted terrain of blame, counter blame and limited concession on ideological preferences. Arguing themselves into institutionalised confrontation. Reports from London and …

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‘Any divided community is like a bottle containing two scorpions. If the scorpions cannot be persuaded to mate, or at least to co-habit in a civilised manner within the same space, it may be better to recognise the fact and look around for another bottle.’

scorpion, arthropods, poisonous

The quote above is from Scorpions in a Bottle: Conflicting Cultures in Northern Ireland: John Darby (1997). A lot has changed in Northern Ireland since then. The community is in a better place with periods of relative tranquillity and less political violence but then something ‘shakes the bottle’. When a local member in Sinn Féin in Derry in 2016 stated that BREXIT was going to be a ‘game-changer’ no one could have foreseen the extent to which the referendum result …

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Why not share the problem of First Minister and get Stormont back into gear?

close-up, cogs, gears

It was just after the UUP endorsed the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and agreed to enter government. Members of a divided Ulster Unionist Council had made their way to several often hastily arranged meetings in the Waterfront Hall, where the UUP decided to ‘jump first’. In the Ulster Hall and different hotels, the fractious differences over the Agreement were laid bare in the public arena. This was less the case at the party Executive although the Press was often briefed by one …

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Time to take off the blindfolds and look at the reality of the protocol…

eye, iris, pupil

A Committee of MPs has found the Ireland/ Northern Ireland Protocol to be ‘untenable’ if it is not ‘repaired, replaced or removed.’ Analysis published by the European Scrutiny Committee of the European Commission’s 2022 Work Programme, which outlines the EU’s law-making priorities for the coming 12 months, identified at least 29 proposals which Northern Ireland will or most likely will have to follow in the years ahead. These laws would be made with little or no input from the UK Parliament or …

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