Could Northern Ireland remain in or closer to the EU post-Brexit?

At Monday lunchtime in next week’s Belfast Imagine! Festival of Ideas and Politics, I will be hosting a session: Could Northern Ireland be an independent member of the EU, or have “special status”. I thought it was important to have a forum during the festival for people to discuss the EU. I’m not pushing any particular outcome, but I will present the case for taking this seriously—and what realistic options are available. I’m hoping that those in attendance will have plenty to say … Read more


Department for the Economy release list of RHI beneficiaries…

After months of legal wrangling, the Department for the Economy has finally released the names of all RHI beneficiaries who are in receipt of payments over £5000. The released the data as a PDF but I converted it to a spreadsheet so you can filter it by who got the most. Which let’s face it is what we all want to know. Download an excel version | View a google sheet version Here are the top beneficiaries As expected there is a lot … Read more


Challenges ahead of a #ScotRef (or #IndyRef2) will cut both ways…

] Today’s Polling Matters podcast has a useful conversation between host Keiran Pedley and Ailsa Henderson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. It’s a real anti-hype piece in which she does a good job of honing in on some of the crunch areas of #ScotRef (the updated SNP version of #IndyRef2). In her piece for the Herald today she covers some of the same ground (though in nothing like the same detail). One key is the shifting ground … Read more


Northern Ireland Assembly Election of March 2017 and the Limitations of Pragmatism

In a deeply divided society such as Northern Ireland political developments tend to be filtered through a number of lenses and experienced at a number of levels – arguably to an even greater degree than is the case in other, less fractious countries. Brexit has no doubt played a major role in mobilizing Northern nationalism, which has swung from one of its worst electoral results to one of its best in less than a year. Of course, perceptions of the … Read more

Gerry Adams ups the ante on Unity, just as it comes under fresh critical examination

 Gerry Adams knows  exactly  how to deploy  sweet reasonableness as a weapon and end up  with a perfect circle of  obstruction. He had had several “businesslike, friendly engagements” with DUP leader Arlene Foster since the talks began, and he had “no reason to doubt” she was innocent of accusations over the “cash for ash” Renewable Heat Initiative which precipitated this month’s Northern Assembly election. However, the affair needed to be “properly scrutinised”. Why block a resolution of the impasse if … Read more

Four former Prime Ministers and one former Deputy PM: (l-r) Brown, Blair, Major, Clegg, Cameron

March of the ex-PMs

With the amendment-free Brexit Bill now assured of receiving the Royal Assent, there is now nothing to stop Theresa May’s imminent invocation of Article 50, at least in theory. Then the two-year-maximum process of extricating the UK from the various articles and clauses binding the state to the European Union will get underway, and the reality of Brexit will slowly transpire. The nature of that reality, however, and just what Brexit will ultimately mean (with Mrs May’s declaration that ‘Brexit … Read more

Martyn Turner on expansion of voting rights

Imagine the impact it would have if even 1-2pc of the Irish diaspora were enfranchised?

On that plan to globalise voting rights for the Presidency, Shane Coleman with a (two )large bucket(s) of cold water in his hands… …without any detail to accompany the sweeping vision, it all smacks of “never mind the quality, feel the width”. There are far, far more questions than answers. How would it work? Who would get votes – everybody across the world eligible for an Irish passport, including second and third-generation Irish? Or just those who grew up in … Read more

Theresa May’s fightback to support the Union through Brexit is only work in progress. The Irish are creating a benign vision of a United Ireland. Do the British want to match it?

The imminence of triggering Article 50 has at last woken up the British government to the reality of the threat to the Union. In a reported forthcoming tour of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to explain a negotiating  position that has seemed to ignore them,  propping up support for her “beloved Union” has become  Theresa May’s priority. Her first line of defence  will be  to  convince the massed ranks of critics that a “hard Brexit” is a misnomer which  does … Read more

The Irish Language Act: Real costs revealed by Conradh na Gaeilge

It’s finally here, the bill for the proposed Irish Language Act.  This is the estimated cost from Conradh na Gaeilge, the umbrella group for Irish language speakers and organisations advocating for legislation to protect the Irish language from capricious political attacks and to promote it resolutely as per the Good Friday Agreement and The St Andrews accord. The good news is that this estimate, put together by the organisation advocating for the legislation is a fraction of the price tags … Read more


Whatever the parties say the post #AE17 dissolution is no stepping stone to a united Ireland…

With the plethora of positive comment in that direction, you’d certainly think was already coming in the post. It’s certainly good to get the subject out on the table (even if the party politics of it obscures more than it reveals of the subject). It’s good to know Fianna Fail is working on a 12 point plan (although the proper time to judge the worthiness of any such plan will come when they actually release it).  The something in the … Read more

Ireland’s Growth and the Blarney Stone

I have had more than my fair share of derision on this site for suggesting that there’s something a tad fishy about Ireland’s export numbers – and for suggesting that some people in Dublin are realising, at last, that Brexit might just be terrible for Ireland (and very good for Northern Ireland). I had hinted in this article that there’s an awful lot of pharma moving between Ireland and Antwerp and Ireland the USA. Most seems to be something to … Read more


Former Bishop of Galway Eamon Casey dies…

Given all the scandals we have had in the Catholic Church since then, Bishop Eamon Casey fathering a child now seems a relatively minor indiscretion. But back then in 1992 it rocked the Irish Catholic Church and the State itself to the core. In fact you could argue that it was the turning point for the Catholic church – it was all downhill from there. Not long after in 1995 Fr Ted hits our screens and it was game over … Read more


How to explain Ireland’s Brexit dilemma to your mates…

Brexit for Ireland as like when you’re out with all your mates on the sesh. Having a great time, Germany’s buying shots for everyone which is grand cause we only brought enough out for three drinks. Then England and Wales start getting in a huff cause Sweden and Germany invited Syria and Yemen along. England and Wales are going on that it’s not about who was brought along, they just thought it was gonna be the usual group who was … Read more


May’s extreme version of Brexit has “forced the Scots into terrible choices…”

This morning’s FT editorial says it all (especially when read beside the Mail’s hysterical “Hands Off Our Brexit”)… The irony here is that the Tory government has refused to outline exactly what sort of Brexit it wants. A bit like the blind men and the elephant everyone thinks they can define the whole thing by the bits and pieces the government chooses to release to the public. Even the FT.  It’s also worth reading Janan Ganesh (in the IT)… Some … Read more

Final Seat Estimate 17

If #AE17 had been fought on the proposed new electoral boundaries

Unless there is a snap Assembly or Westminster election called within the next 18 months, this month’s Assembly Election will be the last Northern Ireland election to be fought under the existing 18 constituency map. Under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act of 2011, the number of Westminster constituencies will fall from 650 to 600, and as a result of this there will be a reduction in the number of Northern Ireland constituencies by one, from 18 to 17. … Read more


“If I ruled out a referendum, I would be deciding that Scotland will follow the UK to a hard Brexit…”

The political gamble of Ms Sturgeon’s life, or so says Alex Massie in the Spectator. Well, maybe. She hasn’t actually called anything yet, just flagged her intention to do so within a set timeframe. However… Brexit, she confirmed, has changed everything. Before the EU referendum she had accepted there could be no grounds for a second referendum unless or until such time as there was evidence a significant number of Scots had changed their minds and were now prepared to … Read more


Get your free tickets for our ‘7 Ways to Make Northern Ireland Great Again!’ live event…

Next Thursday the 23rd of March we are running a live event ‘7 Ways to Make Northern Ireland Great Again!’. We are running it in association with Stratagem as part of the Imagine Festival. We are hosting the event in the Dark Horse Bar and the event kicks off at 7:30pm. Tickets are free and you can book them here… Opinion differs on whether Northern Ireland was ever great. But we’d like you to join the Slugger O’Toole team and our … Read more


Dr George O’Neill on the slow death of general practice…

The 2004 GP contract was the result of significant problems in English inner cities with recruitment and retention of GPs. The continuity of care the bedrock of general practice was lost when GPs no longer were required with the implementation of the new contract to provide out of hours medical services. As a consequence patient care is now the responsibility of the Trusts for the majority of the time.  The loss of continuity of care means the GP is no … Read more

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Fresh evidence from the archives: When did Martin McGuinness actually leave the PIRA?

A previously unseen archival document compiled on behalf of the Conservative Party Northern Ireland Committee, dated 3 July 1975, and located in the Julian Amery Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, University of Cambridge, reveals that despite Martin McGuinness’s repeated assurances that he left the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) in 1974, senior members of the British Conservative Party and British Army believed that McGuinness was still a prominent ‘I. R. A. leader’ in Derry by the summer of 1975, to quote … Read more

Trading partners wanted, apply within…..

In the past twelve months, politics has changed the world utterly and impacted directly on the trading potential of Ireland. Ireland makes do as being a small, open economy, seen as a stepping stone into the European Union. The top export destinations of Ireland are the United States ($28.5B), the United Kingdom ($19.2B), Belgium-Luxembourg ($18.2B), Germany ($10.8B) and France ($7.98B). Concluding a free trade deal between the EU and the USA remains a key priority of the European Commission, however, … Read more