Even if a change is accepted in principle, it will often founder on the details. The principle of a united Cyprus has been accepted by both sides for decades, and yet still they cannot agree. The principle of a united Ireland is not yet accepted by both sides, so what chance have we of agreeing a radical change, or any change at all? If there is to be constitutional change, three things need to be done in sequence. Continue reading...
Borders and boundaries
No matter where you draw a border, it will be in the wrong place. The only "good" borders are those at the top of mountains or in the deepest ocean trenches where nobody ever sets foot. Everything else is fluid and debatable. Continue reading...
Handbagging results in diminishing returns - Thatcher achieved a rollback in the form of the rebate, while Major and his successors achieved merely a standstill in the form of opt-outs. David Cameron's attempt to negotiate an even more favourable deal from the EU, one that had eluded both Thatcher and Major, was an exercise in milking the dry cow. Who now remembers the meagre drops that he extracted? Continue reading...
Biscuits and gravy
We have all heard the aphorism that Britain and America are two great nations divided by a common language. Gas, fall, biscuits, fanny packs. When we hear the accent we automatically run the words through the universal translator, and then hold them up to ridicule as appropriate. But we often forget that even though the Irish and the British are linguistically closer to each other than to their transatlantic cousins, there are still entries in the dictionary, particularly in the ethnopolitical section, that remain false friends. Continue reading...
Squaring the backstop circle
Complaints that the UK has resiled on its commitments are somewhat overblown. In most democracies, a deal is not a deal until it has been ratified, and the UK Parliament reserves the right to overrule the executive. The real problem is that, nearly three years after the referendum, Parliament still has no idea what price it is willing to pay for the thing that it never really wanted. The furore over the backstop is merely a symptom of this contradiction. Continue reading...
Preface (the Commonwealth of NI)
This is the second of a (very!) occasional series of posts providing background notes for the Basic Law of the Commonwealth of Northern Ireland. In this post we will walk through the preface, which introduces some basic principles and sets out a declaration of intent. Preface We, the people of Northern Ireland, believe: that no… Continue reading Preface (the Commonwealth of NI)
Populism and publicity
Whether Peter Casey deliberately indulged in a little bit of demagoguery as a last resort to save his dying campaign, or stumbled upon it by happy accident in an unguarded moment, only Peter Casey knows for sure. But enough has been said about the particulars already, and this post will resist adding further to the… Continue reading Populism and publicity
Bitcoin must die
The UN this week released a report urging world governments to take immediate action to mitigate the effects of the coming climate catastrophe. It is no longer a case of whether catastrophe is coming. It is just a matter of how bad it will get. When tackling any problem two approaches can be taken, which… Continue reading Bitcoin must die
The nightmare scenario
Both the British and Irish Governments have this week warned their people of the dangers (however seemingly remote) of a no-deal Brexit. No doubt there have been junior staff on both sides beavering away in basements to plan for the possibility, whether or not their superiors took them seriously. And the probability of those contingency… Continue reading The nightmare scenario
The Rorschach Test
I argued in an earlier piece that the word "Unionism" should be handled with extreme care, because it has become overloaded with far too many overlapping yet inconsistent meanings. For slightly different reasons, we should also avoid using the phrase "United Ireland". "Unionism" refers to a collection of existing things that can, with effort, be… Continue reading The Rorschach Test
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