Tag Archives: northern ireland

Identity in post-Brexit Northern Ireland

 

In the run up to the EU referendum, former Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair visited Derry. With their deep understanding and appreciation for the nuances and sensitivities of Northern Irish conflict honed by their engagement with the topic for substantial periods of their respective premierships, they were both united in their bleak portrayal of a post-Brexit Northern Ireland.

During their trip, Major and Blair posed for photos on Derry’s Peace Bridge. Opened in Summer 2011, the Peace Bridge stands as an iconic focal point for the city’s cultural and artistic centre. Both a literal and symbolic bridge between the two communities (who have traditionally lived separately on either side of the River Foyle), the Peace Bridge stands as a testament to the ongoing success of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Funded by approximately €20m of the overall €1.3 billion of funds invested in Northern Ireland by the EU since the early 90s, the project is one of many in the province which has benefited from EU funding. The objective of this programme (known as ‘PEACE’) is to provide financing for projects which aim to improve cohesion between communities involved in the conflict in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland, with a specific focus on providing shared facilities for young people. A further PEACE programme was announced in early 2016 with a promise of continued EU assistance and financing of up to €230m. Following the results of the EU referendum, this programme and the related financing for projects in Northern Ireland is clearly now at risk.

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Carmichael: Tories “hell-bent on unravelling the union”

Citing concerns raised by the Irish Justice Secretary to her Eurosceptic British counterpart, Michael Gove, Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem Home Affairs Secretary has accused the Government of being “hell-bent on unravelling the Union.”

The Irish Minister said that decoupling Northern Irish law and the European Convention on Human Rights could undermine the Good Friday Agreemment on which the peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland was based.

The Minister’s letter can be read here.

This also applies to the devolution settlements in Scotland and Wales.

Alistair said:

The devolved settlements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have the European convention hard-wired into them. This Tory government seems hell bent on unravelling the Union by their actions.

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An overview of the Northern Ireland elections

It was mid Saturday afternoon before the identity of the 108 MLAs who will take their seats in the Northern Irish Assembly were known. This is because the 6 members returned for each of the 18 constituencies were elected by STV (Single Transferable Vote) counted by hand not expensive machinery as some warned us about 5 years ago. However, some of the tales of this year’s election were already known before the end.

Firstly all 5 of the parties who made up the Executive at the start of the previous Assembly saw a drop in their first preference vote share. A drop of 2.9% for Sinn Féin, 2.2% for the SDLP, 0.8% for the DUP and 0.7% each for Alliance and UUP (who walked into opposition during the last mandate).

West Belfast caused excitement on both their first and final stage. On first preferences it was not Sinn Féin who topped the poll and took the first seat but Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit Alliance (PBPA). At the other end outgoing MLA Alex Atwood almost became the victim of a first unionist win since 2003 trailing the DUP’s Frank McCoubrey before the final redistribution pulled him 89 votes ahead.

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David Steel on Northern Ireland abortion law

David Steel

We’ve just caught up with an interview with David Steel on the BBC Northern Ireland political show The View. (The interview starts 17:58 minutes in)

David was responsible for introducing the Abortion Act in 1967, which made abortion legal up to 28 weeks, later reduced to 24 weeks. But the law was never extended to Northern Ireland where the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 still applies. Under that law a woman who procures her own abortion is guilty of a felony and can be given a prison sentence of life, or for up to two years ‘with or without hard labour, and with or without solitary confinement’. Current regulations permit termination only if the woman’s life is at risk or if continuing the pregnancy would put her long-term health at risk.

David says:

I think they’ve got to face up to the fact that the law in Northern Ireland is simply ridiculous – 1861 – and it is time they came up at least to 1967, if not 2016.

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Bearder calls on Theresa Villiers to quit if she backs Brexit

Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder has said that Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers should resign if she wants to campaign for Britain to leave the EU. She joined Northern Irish politicians who argued that the effect of leaving the EU would be acutely felt in Northern Ireland and the peace process could be at risk.

Catherine said:

Given the disastrous impact Brexit could have on the Northern Ireland peace process, it would be highly inappropriate for Theresa Villiers to remain in her post while campaigning to leave the EU.

Leaving Europe would risk stoking sectarian tensions and undoing years of peacebuilding, much of it funded through EU peace programmes. It would also fundamentally transform the UK’s relationship with the Republic of Ireland and put at risk the open land border we currently share.

David Cameron must stop putting the interests of his party ahead of those of the country. Government ministers should not be able to campaign for an EU exit if this completely goes against their role and responsibilities.

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Opinion: Human Rights Act – when rights clash

 

As one of the many who have recently joined the Liberal Democrats, my attention has been drawn to the fight to make sure that the Human Rights Act is not scrapped by the Conservatives. In a recent email from Tom Brake MP, we were reminded of the following rights afforded to us by the Human Rights Act:

  • the right to life;
  • the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • the prohibition of slavery and forced labour;
  • the right to liberty and security of the person;
  • the right to a fair trial;
  • prohibition of punishment without law;
  • the right to respect for private and family life;
  • the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • the right to freedom of expression;
  • the right to freedom of assembly and association;
  • the right for men and women to marry and found a family;
  • the right to peaceful enjoyment of personal property;
  • the right to education;
  • the right to free elections;
  • and the prohibition of discrimination.

But what happens when there is friction between two or more of these rights?

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Opinion: Northern Ireland and marriage equality

On Friday the people of Ireland voted on marriage equality in their referendum. The results on Saturday showed that 1,201,607 people voted Yes/Tá to 734,300 voting No/Níl making the result 62.1% to 37.9% in favour. Only one of the 43 constituencies, Roscommon – South Leitrim, voted no but only by a margin of 1,029 votes and barely nibbled into the overall trend of the votes that were being announced. The other forty-two constituencies had all by either a small (only 33 votes in Donegal South West) to a large (27,959 in Dublin South) margin voted yes. Overall 1,201,607 people voted Yes/Tá to 734,300 voting No/Níl 62.1% to 37.9%.

But the other question is where does that leave Northern Ireland, which is now the largest region of the British Isles that does not have equal marriage in any shape or form allowing people of the same-sex to marry?

Firstly if we look at the Northern Ireland Act 1998 it recognises that the people of Northern Ireland can identify as British or Irish or both. This is key now to moving forward. Then from the same piece of legislation we also note that:

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