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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The Hope of Possibility

My Dad died two days before Christmas. I was on my way up to see him when I got a missed call and a text from my brother telling me he’d passed away. He had pancreatic cancer. The time between diagnosis and death is often short. Before you’ve had time to wrap your head around the fact that your loved one is ill, they are gone.  The shock of the loss is as sharp and painful as the grief. How …

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Eastwoods tells delegates SDLP is here to stay

200 delegates gathered in St Columb’s Hall for the SDLP conference. Gathering in the party heartland of Derry after a terrible year the SDLP is doing some soul-searching about its future. Recent polls have shown the party is still struggling to gain traction with the electorate. This conference is aimed at beginning the fightback for the party and what they are betting the house on is a New Movement for a New Ireland. This idea is not an original one. …

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Houses of sand: Unionism has a problem with younger voters. A huge one.

Whither the union. I find myself becoming weary as I write this. Articles about the demise of the union, about unionist malaise and mistakes, are so common these days that they all sound the same. I stopped writing them at one point because I had nothing new to add. Even now, people write these pieces with a weird air of arrogance. They want you to know that they and they alone have figured out that unionism is in a difficult …

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Historical determinism is holding Nationalism back and needs to be ditched.

“A United Ireland is inevitable” For anyone who comes from a Nationalist family you will have heard an older relative say this statement over and over again. Like an article of faith, you believe that with just a few simple demographic changes and a patient waiting game that the promised land will be ours. After all, Northern Ireland was only going to be a temporary stop gap solution, right? The British government would be shot of us tomorrow,  because we …

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Legacy: Who are we moving on for?

Northern Ireland, it seems, has a problem with moving on. Decades (centuries) of strife and conflict. The pain, the trauma, all of it passed down from generation to generation. In the year of our lord 2021, we’re still angry about it all. Still hurt, still frustrated and in pain. Step forward the Prime Minister and his Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis.  They have seen the light and taken a bold, brave step to help us move forward. The government has …

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How the NI Protocol protects the Agreement

To the chagrin of Unionist politicians, it’s often emphasised by the four governments (UK, Ireland, EU, and US) that the Northern Ireland Protocol exists to protect the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. For reasons which are understandable when examined in isolation, Unionism feels let down by the promise of the Agreement. I can see where they are coming from. The Agreement is based on cross community consent; the Protocol does not recognise this. British citizens are asked to …

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Well, well, well-#AE2022 and that Lucid Talk poll

It’s early days, minds could change later, but the Belfast Telegraph’s latest poll will send shivers down the DUP’s spine. According to Lucid Talk, support for the DUP has dropped to 16%, the same as Alliance. Sinn Fein sits at 25%. Doug Beattie will take comfort from the figure for the UUP, up two points to 14%. A Sinn Fein First Minister has been a possibility since the 2017 Assembly election. Based on these figures,  Sinn Fein will clinch the …

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Northern Ireland at 100: Unionism failing; Nationalism stuck; Moderates thriving…

One hundred years after Partition, Northern Ireland is still in existence. It would surely come as a big surprise to many who thronged the streets of Belfast on June 22nd 1921 – the date King George V opened the first NI Parliament in City Hall – that unionism is now a minority in Stormont. It would also surely come as a big surprise to many nationalists in 1972 that the state set up to guarantee unionist rule in north-east Ireland …

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Ireland’s Future-Changing Narratives and Changing Language

Gerry Carlile is the CEO of Ireland’s Future  The labelling of people ‘Green’ and ‘Orange’ to describe their political outlook is becoming increasingly dated. In fact, the laziness inherent in those labels are patronising and offensive. The peace process signalled an end to such broad sweeping and blunt labels to describe an increasingly complex and nuanced spectrum of political views across the north. Even a cursory analysis of those who use these descriptors reveal a certain brand of intellectual and …

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Moderate Irish Nationalism is talking at Unionists, not with Unionists, and that will set us all back.

Philip Wilson is a Belfast-based writer who is involved in Northern Irish politics. He has a Master’s in Politics from King’s College London When Irish Nationalists like Simon Coveney and Matthew O’Toole suggest that Brexit, and not the protocol, is the problem, they deny Unionists their full place in the United Kingdom and implicitly dilute the vote of Unionists as full citizens of the UK. In no sense can this be interpreted as in the spirit of the Belfast/Good Friday …

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Irish unity : going nowhere fast

So how’s the Irish reunification campaign coming along ? According to Sinn Féin President, Mary Lou McDonald, there doesn’t need to be one, because it’s already been won. A few days ago, speaking to Owen Jones, McDonald said of a United Ireland : ‘We’ll do it in the next decade. We’ll do it in this decade, actually.’  This is an example of the nationalist equivalent of the ‘inevitability doctrine’ I wrote about a few months back. In my previous article, …

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Post Nationalism is a sign of political maturity…

In the history of ideas, Nationalism has burst through as nearly universal in its application, understanding and complexity. The Northern Ireland political scene has long been described as two competing nationalisms, our polity birthed as it was in the cradle of nationalist fervour unleashed on the battlefields of the Great War and continuing into the 1920s with Ireland’s (eventual) split from the British Empire. What we colloquially call “unionism” is a form of British nationalism intent on protecting the interests …

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What is a shared island?

I am but a mere local political commentator who occasionally gets asked to do TV and radio. Occasionally I regurgitate my annoying opinions in written form. Thanks to my involvement with an upcoming Institute of Irish Studies project, I got the opportunity to ask the Taoiseach about the new Shared Island Unit. There were scenes on Whatsapp when I told my mum what I was doing. “Martin or Wee Higgins?” she texted, getting mixed up. In his speech, Micheál Martin …

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Northern Ireland Centenary: This country

This is about the centenary of Northern Ireland. But first, a slight detour. In Lucy Caldwell’s, ‘Multitudes,’ one of her characters describes the heartache of watching her teenage school friend move from Northern Ireland to England. “They’ve had enough is what Susan’s mum says. She just can’t take it anymore. ‘This country,’ she says to my mum. ‘This country,’ my mum says back to her, and neither of them says anything else.” The scene has always stuck with me because …

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Remembering John Hume

Since news of John Hume’s death emerged yesterday (3 August 2020), there has been an outpouring of obituaries and tributes to the man who is considered the architect of peace in Northern Ireland. These were immediate, as is the case with obituaries of key figures in society, and Hume has not been a well man for some time. Obituaries play a key role in how individuals and their legacies are remembered after their death, and can be considered as sites …

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John Hume the lone diplomat rather than party leader has won a special place in the history of these islands

John Hume  photo Irish News  It’s the memory of John the person that immediately springs to mind.   I believe he came to see himself with the vision and strategy of a man of destiny. But he did so without any of the aura that would have set him apart and made him vulnerable to being taken down. The near sainthood  that some have attributed to him must have made him smile. He had a great knack of friendliness even trust …

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Shared or united island? The Greens called it right.

The new banter coalition in the Republic has got off to a dramatic start. Ministerial sackings! A tax ruling from the ECJ! Infighting! It’s everything we could have hoped for. Among the chaos of this week came an interesting titbit from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. According to Ryan our own Clare Bailey, the party leader in Northern Ireland, was behind the decision to rename the ‘united island’ unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to the ‘shared island’ unit. …

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Patronising the “liberal unionist”

I’ve often noticed a strange but predictable phenomenon, and last week I experienced it directly here on Slugger. It was on Jay’s thread about the merits or otherwise of the established unionist parties. When I bookended criticism of the two main unionist parties with similar criticism of the priorities of Sinn Fein, I had a number of responses deriding me as a poor representative of “liberal unionism” or as a member of the “liberal wing” of unionism. That got me …

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Emma De Souza: a solution?

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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