UTV Election Debate: A win for Eastwood with Long and Robinson taking aim at one another

Representatives from the five main parties gathered at UTV today in the first local debate ahead of the General Election on July 4th. John Finucane for Sinn Fein, Colum Eastwood for the SDLP, Naomi Long for the Alliance Party, Robbie Butler for the UUP, and Gavin Robinson for the DUP. The debate was divided into three themes: influence at Westminster, Executive finances and a border poll. An interesting aspect of the debate was some of the participants’ different and laid-back …

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Results suggest Sinn Féin’s ‘inflection point’ (and a UI) remain some way off

a full moon shines in the sky over the ocean

Regardless of how you cut it, one of the big stories of the southern locals was Sinn Féin’s failure to break through, again. In order to understand why more than 2o0 SF candidates failed to gain a council seat it’s worth noting the poll ratings at the start: 🚨 IREUKmedia EXIT POLL for the #LE2024: 🟢 Sinn Fein: 199 (+118)🔵 Fine Gael: 180 (-75)🟩 Fianna Fail: 142 (-137)🌱 Green Party: 28 (-21)🔴 Labour: 47 (-10)⚫️ Independents/Other: 246 (+61)🟣 Social Democrats: …

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Why does nationalism run away from Irish Unity at election time ?

Shortly after the announcement of the general election, I noted over in Scotland that both the SNP and Alba (Alex Salmond’s hardline pro-independence breakaway) were straight out of the blocks, seeking a mandate for Scottish independence. SNP leader John Swinney characterised polling day, July 4th, as “Independence Day”. In a press release which mentions the word “independence” seven times, he said : .. So let’s unite to win the powers of independence to strengthen our economy, tackle the cost of …

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Is it time to give up on power sharing as a bad job ?

A couple of weeks back I wrote about whether or not the time had come for Alliance to adopt a constitutional position (TL;DR – it hasn’t). As is typical of articles that touch on the constitutional issue, there were quite a few comments, most of which spectacularly avoided the point and tended to rehash boring talking points and clichés from the 1970s. But there were several fair remarks which merit further discussion, so I thought I’d start with the most …

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Alliance : time to get off the fence ? 

Some weeks ago I noted with interest the outcome of the University of Liverpool survey into the makeup of the Alliance Party membership base and their views on constitutional matters, finding that a larger number of members believe that Irish unity should occur in the future.  The title of this piece refers to an old cliché, which I’ve heard since 1994, that the party are a bunch of fence-sitters. More recently I’ve been hearing “constitutional change is coming and Alliance …

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After Donaldson the question remains: how do we feed future generations of those who live in Northern Ireland?

aerial view of boat on water

As a Manchester City fan of many years standing (myself and just two others in Primary went blue when everyone else was going red) I know a rapid change in managers is not a sign of good health. After many years of stability at the top the DUP is experiencing that sort of bewilderment you get when nothing you try quite sticks. It’s been a rough ride since Peter Robinson stepped down. In spite of the drastic reasons for the …

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Political stability? Keep it a secret…

grayscale photo of woman doing silent hand sign

The media coverage – and some political reaction – to the DUP’s vote on the extension of a new EU law to Northern Ireland was very telling, if predictable. Overall the vote and its implications were no big deal. The importance was but it was part of the agreement between HMG and Jeffrey Donaldson that got Stormont back in action. Therefore it was important that the DUP used the opportunity it presented to weaken the destructive and flat earth pronouncements …

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Justice Colton and the Limitations of ‘Reconciliation’

sunflower field under blue sky during sunset

Brian Walker recently commented on Mr Justice Colton’s intervention in the legacy debate – namely his judgment on 28 February in the High Court on a batch of cases seeking judicial review of the 2023 Legacy Act. Brian argued that that 200-page judgment ought to be understood with reference to ‘the basic purpose of the whole enterprise … the key word is “reconciliation”’. This is undoubtedly correct, but assessing peace and justice according to reconciliation is, I suggest, seriously tendentious …

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The past, present and future of cross-border rail

Enterprise crossing Craigmore Viaduct near Bessbrook

Recently, to great fanfare, the Irish government announced an €800m funding package in support of its Shared Island strategy aimed at funding public spending on projects in Northern Ireland. The lion’s share of the spend is on the A5 project, and that, together with Casement, is where most of the media attention went. However, there is also an allocation aimed at increasing the frequency of cross border rail services. Before looking at this in detail we should talk a little …

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#APNI24 looking for reform and growth at Westminster

Alliance gathered for their annual conference in the Stormont Hotel in East Belfast. 400 delegates heard their leaders pitch for reform of the institutions and the upcoming Westminster elections. I have attended every Alliance conference since 2014 and this is one of the most upbeat and energetic that I have witnessed. The party’s local election saw growth but unlike, Sinn Fein, it was a mixed bag with losses in some places and failure to break through in others. The Deputy …

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“a striking manifestation of the confidence and optimism of the shared island initiative…”

bridge, autumn, nature

As recently as November Irish News columnist Brian Feeney wrote a column under the heading to the effect that “The Irish government and Fianna Fáil have no policy at all on the north”. [Ahem – Ed] Well, the secret of politics is in the timing. In a year that will see elections on both island’s Micheál Martin’s brainchild the Shared Island Initiative has finally made people sit up and take notice. The initiative was launched in 202o and by the …

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The end of a series

The latest series of Holywell Conversations podcasts began with reflections on the Good Friday Agreement, amidst fears that Northern Ireland’s devolution was over, and that series has now completed at a time when government has actually resumed. Over the series’ 18 episodes two themes have been examined – the challenges holding back reconciliation within our society, and the specific problems that continue to face the North West region. In the first episode, we heard from three people at the table …

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The Belfast Summit takes place on the 15th February 2024…

An event next month at Ulster University will put Belfast City Centre – good, bad and open to improvement – under the spotlight. The main draw to the Belfast Summit, organised by communications, public affairs and research specialists MW Advocate, is Professor Carlos Moreno – the creator of the 15-minute city concept and the man who is the driving force behind Paris’s regeneration plan. Organisers are hoping to stimulate and facilitate a conversation to examine how Belfast can become one of Europe’s leading small …

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What was it all for?

brexit, eu, europe

The events of the DUP meeting on Monday night have been variously described as a farce and a very important crossing of the Rubican. The remarkable thing is that both interpretations may be true. On the one hand you have the harsh reality that not a letter of the Protocol or the Windsor framework have been changed, the operation of which was always going to be subject to operational and political review, depending on any practical difficulties with contraband goods …

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On the face of it Donaldson’s deal will keep the whole UK aligned with the EU

Rather than farce, the DUP executive’s decision last night is a crossing of the rubicon. Sir Jeffrey’s problem in selling it is likely to relate to the expectations of other unionist voices and leaders. The BBC reports his take as follows: Sir Jeffrey said the legislation agreed with Westminster would “remove checks on goods moving within the UK and remaining in NI, and end NI blindly following EU laws”. He added: “There will be legislation protecting the Acts of Union, …

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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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Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…

man holding flag

On August 1st. 2023, The Daily Mail reported that Sunak had decided to retain the CE mark for British produce. In a piece entitled: “Rishi Sunak performs another Brexit climbdown as PM allows British firms to continue using EU’s ‘CE’ safety mark on products ‘indefinitely’ rather than new UKCA alternative” Greg Heffer, Political Correspondent For Mailonline wrote: “Rishi Sunak has performed another Brexit climbdown by allowing firms to continue using the EU’s ‘CE’ safety mark on products ‘indefinitely’. The Prime …

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In Defence of Donaldson

Jeffrey Donaldson has been getting a bad press for what seems like his eternal dithering over devolution and failure to move the process forward. It is said that the party officers are split and that he can’t carry his Executive with him. Even if he does succeed in persuading a narrow majority to support his deal there is a risk of a hugely damaging party split with the anti-Protocol or Windsor Framework faction defecting to the TUV or some other …

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What now for legacy?

The widely opposed Legacy Bill is now enacted as the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act, 2023. But it remains widely hated and the Irish government has launched inter-state proceedings against the UK administration. This is a clear and strong sign of how bad relations are between the two governments that are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement. Out of what we can now call the Legacy Act comes the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery. While this …

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