.@BorisJohnson’s Cunning #Brexit Re-Run Plan

This column predated the meeting between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. Here I look at what is behind the Brexiteer’s obsession with getting rid of the Backstop (be it Northern Ireland only or UK wide.  It first appeared here on Broadsheet.ie on October 7th. 

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Opening his Sunday morning BBC1 show yesterday, Andrew Marr wondered if Boris Johnson’s cunning Brexit plan was to pretend that he has a cunning plan to cover the fact that he doesn’t have a cunning plan.

Mr Marr has a point. Most of Johnson’s cunning plans have thus far failed. His ruse to prorogue parliament was demolished by the Supreme Court, and he has still to win a single vote in the House of Commons. He entered Downing Street at the head of a government with a majority (via the DUP) of one. Now, thanks to his handling of the grandest of the Tory grandees, it has a majority of minus 42.

Yet, despite these failures and setbacks, Johnson is doing well in the polls. The Tories now enjoy a steady lead over the Labour party of anywhere between 7% and 13% (YouGov polling). As with John F Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis, it seems that the worse he does, the more popular he gets.

This is Johnson’s cunning plan. A speedy election putting the Tories back with a solid majority, no longer dependant on the DUP and ERG. Johnson believes in nothing as deeply as he believes in his destiny to lead.

Continue reading “.@BorisJohnson’s Cunning #Brexit Re-Run Plan”

My 2019 Summer Political reading list

Here is my annual Summer Political Reading List for 2019. You can find last year’s list here: 2018

The list first appeared, over two weeks, on Broadsheet HERE and HERE 

I have the hotels and flights booked so it must be time for my annual summer political reading list. Below are some suggested titles along with short reviews of books that should be of interest to those who follow politics.  

As with the previous two lists I have done for Broadsheet the books are mainly factual, though this time I have tried to go for less heavy reads than past years. The list is in no particular order, though it does start with books with a more domestic focus. Feel free to disagree with any of my choices in the comments section below and maybe suggest what books you have packed or downloaded for the summer break. Continue reading “My 2019 Summer Political reading list”

A Tale of Two Tributes

This article first appeared on Broadsheet.ie  on July 2nd 2019. It followed my attendance at the funeral service in Derry for the great Northern Ireland champion of civil rights, the late Ivan Cooper

Ivan cooper

Last week two lesser known but nonetheless extremely significant figures from the last half century of Northern Ireland’s history died.

While the pain, grief and sorrow and felt by the friends and family of both men was equal, the tributes given, at their respective funerals, to the lives they led and the key roles they played in forming today’s Northern Ireland could not have contrasted more.

While those tributes reflected the diverged paths they took, one in bringing communities together, the other in dividing them, champions of both would claim that each man was motivated equally by the pursuit of equality and civil rights.

The tributes, coming within days of each other, did more than point to the differing lives led, they also highlight the still glaring differences in interpretation of the origins of the troubles in Northern Ireland, but also to the conflicting views on where Northern Ireland goes next, and how. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Tributes”

This is not the way to implement meaningful #constitutional reform

This Broadsheet.ie column from June 18th looks at the Government’s plans to hold a referendum later in 2019 to extend voting rights in future Irish presidential elections to both Northern Irish voters and the diaspora. 

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A session of the Irish Constitutional Convention 2012/2013

If last week’s reports are right –  and the Taoiseach has said that they are – then all of us will be heading back to our local polling stations sometime in October or November.

No, it won’t be to elect new Dáil and a new government… well, it does yet not seem that will be the reason, but who knows what may change over Summer?

For now, it looks like Irish citizens across all 40 Dáil constituencies are about to be invited to vote in yet another referendum. This one on extending voting rights in future presidential elections. (I mention the 40 Dáil constituencies, as voters in four of them will likely be voting in by-elections occasioned by the election to the European Parliament of TDs: Billy Kelleher, Frances Fitzgerald, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace).

Confirming the reports in the Dáil last week the Taoiseach said that Cabinet has signed off on legislation to “extend voting rights for presidential elections to Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and around the world” and that he plans to have it debated before the Dáil rises for its summer recess [planned for July 11th].

He also said that the government has produced a 100-page, detailed paper on how it is going to work.

I sincerely hope it has, but why are we still waiting to see it?

Continue reading “This is not the way to implement meaningful #constitutional reform”

Why #EP2019 had the potential to be a lot more interesting

This post first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on April 16th 2019. 

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Last week Brussels gave Theresa May six more months to sort out Brexit. They could have given her a Tardis, a Stargate and Boris Johnson’s weight in dilithium crystals and she still couldn’t do it.

Time is not May’s problem – it is authority and trust. She has squandered both putting the unity of the Tory party before everything else.

Along with their six-month gift came a poison chalice. The UK now must hold European elections on May 23. Not that anyone had any choice.

The law is quite clear, perhaps because it was drafted with this contingency in mind. If Britain is still an EU member state when the European elections are underway, then it must participate. If it didn’t, the UK would have to leave the EU without a deal on June 1st otherwise there could be legal challenge to the validity of the next EU Parliament’s mandate.

It is a mess, but hasn’t everything about Brexit proven itself a complete and utter mess?

Continue reading “Why #EP2019 had the potential to be a lot more interesting”

Trimbling in fear of #Brexit #Backstop

This column first appeared on www.broadsheet.ie on Feb 5th 2019

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British Prime Minister, Theresa May is in Belfast today to make a speech at… sorry… to give a speech to local business leaders. The speech will re-state her “absolute commitment” to avoiding a hard border, post Brexit.

Her statement of commitment is welcome, just as welcome as it was when first made over two years ago, but with only seven weeks to go to the March 29th exit and after 18 exhaustive months of negotiations, surely it is not asking too much to expect her to say how she will turn this commitment into reality?

This is a crisis of her own making. She says she is committed to no hard border, but then she also says that she is equally committed to having a Brexit that takes the United Kingdom of Great Britain and parts of Northern Ireland out of the EU’s Customs Union and the Single Market, as well as out of the EU institutions.

The hard truth is that she cannot commit to ensuring no customs union, no single market and no hard border at the same time. You can do two out of three, but you cannot do all three.

Continue reading “Trimbling in fear of #Brexit #Backstop”

FF/SDLP: Not a merger, more an emerging

This article appeared On broadsheet.ie on Jan 29th 2019

SDLP FFIn the aftermath of the disastrous June 2016 Brexit referendum result, a result we should remember went 56:44 in favour of Remain in Northern Ireland, I started talking here about the need for the political system on this island, most particularly in Northern Ireland, to start catching up with the changing political landscape.

In a range of articles from late 2016 onwards I frequently quoted from a series of thoughtful speeches from the SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood. As well as talking about the current crisis he was also looking to the longer-term implications of the Brexit vote, in particular the difference between the results in England those in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Eastwood was repeatedly saying that Brexit had consequences for all of this island because Brexit meant that the English had chosen, albeit narrowly, a very different future from that of the Irish people, north and south.

Continue reading “FF/SDLP: Not a merger, more an emerging”

How @DublinGAA indirectly got @DUPleader to Clones… via the Somme

This Broadsheet.ie column explains how one low-key but deeply sincere Dublin GAA action did more to get the DUP’s Arlene Foster to move, than months of politicians and pundits haranguing 

192414946-a4dfa92e-086c-418c-84fd-8c7989444412Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. Though I am tempted to pretend that I recall this dusty old latin phrase from my days doing inter-cert latin in Synge St., the truth is that I only know it from watching The West Wing.

It is the title of episode two of season one and its significance is explained by the President Bartlett character when it translates it to his staff saying:

“‘After it, therefore because of it.’ It means one thing follows the other, therefore it was caused by the other. But it’s not always true, in fact it’s hardly ever true.”

Yet another “The West Wing” truism. If only today’s real thing were as clever as Aaron Sorkin could right it. Nonetheless, the point is well made. It’s a common mistake in politics to so imagine that there is order and logic in events that we manage to project some form of order and sequencing on to them.

In politics, the cock-up theory more often applies than the conspiracy one.

Continue reading “How @DublinGAA indirectly got @DUPleader to Clones… via the Somme”

Change the record Mary Lou

This column appeared on Broadsheet.ie on May 29th 2018.

fr-billy-o-dwyer-spinmasterThere have been a few Fr Ted references here over the past few days, so let’s start off with another one. Remember that episode of Fr Ted where the lads need to raise money to fix the water leaks in the parochial house?

You know the one, they destroy the car Bishop Brennan gives them for the raffle and thus have to rig the draw to ensure that Dougal’s ticket wins it. Ted gets Fr Billy “Spinmaster” O’Dwyer to do the disco before the draw, but there’s a problem. Fr Billy has only one record with him and it’s “Ghost Town” by The Specials. Undeterred, the Spinmaster plays it over and over and over again, oblivious to the fact that the crowd have stopped listening.

I like Ghost Town. Not only is it a good song, it is a serious piece of popular social commentary, but even the loyalist Special fan would concede that forcing anyone to listen to it over and over again could turn them against it.

This is something that Sinn Féin’s “spinmasters” Mary Lou MacDonald and Michelle O’Neill could do well to bear in mind.

Continue reading “Change the record Mary Lou”

Bringing It All Back Hume #GFA20

This column first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on April 10th, 2018

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By the time you read this I will be in Belfast attending several special events to mark 20 years of the Good Friday Agreement.

One of those, at Queen’s University entitled: Building Peace, and organized by the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at QUB, is described as

“the only one of its kind to gather together so many of the key influencers on the Good Friday Agreement to mark its 20-year anniversary”.

It is not an idle boast. The former US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, and recent star of RTÉ TV’s Ray Darcy Show, will be joined by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, as well as many other key players including: Seamus Mallon, Gerry Adams, Jonathan Powell, David Trimble and Peter Robinson. Continue reading “Bringing It All Back Hume #GFA20”