Tag Archives: ireland

An united Ireland v a shared Island – how the messaging is changing

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For anyone following Irish politics, Budget 2021 was announced on Tuesday. In it, something very interesting occurred – €500m was allocated to the ‘Shared Island’ initiative intended to support cross-border co-operation, joint infrastructure projects and all-Ireland education, health, tourism and climate action projects. This came on the back of the creation of a ‘Shared Island Unit’ established by the new Government which will be managed within the Taoiseach’s Department (the Irish equivalent to Downing Street). It is not the investment that’s of interest, it’s that over the last few months, the language has moved from ‘An United Ireland’ to a ‘Shared Island’ very quickly.

For us political nerds, it is a fascinating example of how framing the message can create shuttle shifts in tones and outcomes. A Shared Island appreciates that there are different communities living on the island with different identities and values. It’s a practical approach allowing these communities to work together. It’s not a constitutional issue.

Covid has significantly highlighted the need for the island to work together. The virus does not recognize borders. With NI political leaders looking across the Irish Sea for its public health guidance rather than agreeing a coordinated plan with the Irish authorities, the virus has mocked the border. There are similarities made between the island of Ireland and New Zealand frequently but it is impossible to deliver the same results while two jurisdictions work independently from each other. The opportunity to take advantage of being an island lost.

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Is Civil War Politics in Ireland really dead and buried?

Can you remember the 8th of February? Before COVID? No? Neither can I. There was an election in Ireland that day, but a government was only formed last Saturday. Yes, it took 140 days and on Saturday, Micheál Martin, leader of our ALDE sister-party, Fianna Fáil, took office as An Taoiseach.

Negotiators from Fianna Fáil (FF), Fine Gael (FG) and the Green Party (GP) worked on a Programme for Government (PfG). At the same time, a pandemic sucked the life out of the economy, and public health officials strived to protect people. Each respective government party took the PfG back to their membership for support and won it, allowing for a viable coalition to emerge.

But this isn’t any coalition. It is meant to be the beginning of the end of Civil War politics.

Let’s set the scene.

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Ireland at the UN table – An authority in soft power

In the world of international diplomacy, something remarkable happened this week to boost the morale of the UK’s closest neighbour, Ireland. She was elected on the first count to the table of the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member, beating the far bigger power of Canada in the process.

You might wonder why Ireland would even want to be there, or why in fact, others would want her to be there. In the short history of the recent state that is Ireland, it will be the fourth time that Ireland has taken its place at that table. An impressive statistic given it’s just a small island in the North Atlantic. To answer this question, you need to get right into the soul of the Irish people to understand why being at the centre of shaping global decision-making and politics is important.

There’s a sense of national pride attached to it – Ireland, the underdog, holding its own amongst the big guns of global politics. More importantly, the island of Ireland has known its own troubles and has overcome them. We understand what feeling oppressed is like. We understand how hard peace is to come by. We understand the importance of language and identity. We understand conflict resolution. We lived it, and if we can come out of it the other side, so can others. 

Let’s look at the result of the count this week. The quota was 128 out of 192 votes. There were three countries up for election – Canada, Norway and Ireland. One the first count, both Norway and Ireland were elected leaving Canada bruised again failing for the second time in recent times to get elected. Two features appeared in the vote – small nations voted for Ireland as well as all the Middle East Arab countries. A vote for Ireland was a vote for the small nations in the UN. Equally, Ireland doesn’t bring baggage to the UN Security Council as it does not have a colonial past and is deemed an honest broker.

The agenda Dublin will be focused on includes supporting a rules-based order that helps to enable small nations to survive. Plus, it intends to lobby for action to be taken against Israel if the planned annexation of the West Bank goes ahead. Ireland regards annexation as a blatant breach of international law. As an honest broker, Ireland is much respected in this regard and has been an active participant in the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) since 1958. UNTSO, established in 1948, is the oldest ongoing United Nations peacekeeping operation. It operates in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel – the parties to the Truce Agreements that followed the fighting in Palestine in 1948. To date, Ireland still maintains troops in the Golan Heights and Lebanon. 

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Observations of an Expat: Ireland

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Ireland, we were told by Boris Johnson and his coterie of Leave campaigners, was not a problem. It was a non-issue dreamt up by the Remainers as part of their fear campaign. The Good Friday Agreement, they said, was secure along with the future of the union.

Then Boris drew the EU-UK border down the middle of the Irish Sea and threw Northern Ireland’s Protestants to the nationalist wolves. It was not the first time that a British Prime Minister was prepared to sacrifice Ulster for the benefit of England. During World War II, Winston Churchill, offered unification in return for Irish entry into the war on the side of the Allies. Eammon de Valera refused because he thought Churchill would be unable to deliver on the pledge.

This week Sinn Fein – the political wing of the IRA – emerged as one of the victors in a three-way tie in the Irish general election. A unified island was not a major part of their campaign. In fact, it was conspicuous by the virtual silence on the subject. Instead the nationalists focused on a left-wing agenda of increased spending on public services and housing in contrast to the long-established 100-year duopoly of the centrist parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

But make no mistake it. A united Ireland free of British control remains the heart and soul of Sinn Fein. It is the reason that it was formed back in 1905. And pre-World War I support for the nationalist cause in the southern two-thirds of the Ireland was the reason that Sir Edward Carson was able to mobilise 100,000-plus members of the Ulster Volunteer Force to threaten a civil war unless the six Protestant-dominated counties of the north remained part of the United Kingdom.

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Billy Kelleher MEP writes: Britain didn’t become more illiberal and less tolerant overnight

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Brexit’s happening. There I said it. It is not what I, my party, or my island wants. I know it’s not what the Lib Dems want, but we are where we are.

The deal that Prime Minister Johnson agreed with the EU is not as good as Theresa May’s deal. While it is good for Northern Ireland, it may prove damaging for East-West trade between Ireland and Great Britain if a future relationship agreement isn’t agreed in time.

For the first time, the islands of Ireland and Great Britain are not on the same course – we are diverging. This brings with it huge challenges for all of us who live on either island.

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Brexit: the penny drops as Sir Humphrey is wheeled in amidst the “whiff of sexism”

Sir Ivan Rogers, former UK ambassador to the EU, had to have an uncomfortable conversation with the then Prime Minister, Theresa May in 2016. He told her:

…you have made three commitments in good faith to different audiences, but they are not really compatible with each other.

You have said to the Irish, under no circumstances will a hard border be erected across the island of Ireland.

You have said to the Democratic Unionist community under no circumstances will there be divergence from the rest of Great Britain.

And you have said to the right of your own party that you are heading out of the customs union.

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Liberal Irish – the new Liberal Democrat Irish Society

Party President Sal Brinton with (L to R) Richard Logue, Audrey Eager and Conrad Bryan

We weren’t sure what to expect on Monday morning when we picked up 500 flyers for our launch event. We weren’t inside the conference building, we weren’t on the conference timetable and we certainly weren’t on the conference app. What we did have was enthusiasm and determination to get the message out to conference that we were there and would welcome anyone who wanted to know what we are about and what we intend to do.

We were delighted to secure the Irish Ambassador to the UK, Adrian O’Neill as our guest speaker. The Irish Ambassador and his team make the point of attending all the major party conferences so we took the opportunity to book him.

We booked space in Bar So at the Royal Exeter Hotel, a regular haunt for Conference attendees and shamelessly door-stepped everyone going in and out of conference inviting everyone from MPs, Peers, MEPs and members.

Baroness Dee Doocey has very kindly agreed to be our Honorary President hailing from Dublin herself originally. We were delighted to meet with Party President, Sal Brinton who encouraged us and was very supportive of our aims. We also spoke with Baroness Sarah Ludford who was in attendance at the reception along with Nick Harvey, Chief Executive of the Lib Dems.

And what a turnout at the reception it was!

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The abortion debate is more complicated than arguing the rights of mums versus babies

It’s easy to assume the upcoming vote on abortion in Ireland is a black and white issue. A straight decision between the rights of an unwanted, unborn child versus the rights of a woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant.

Actually, it’s much more complicated than that. Let me tell you my story, as the nearly mum of a much wanted baby.

I’ve never had morning sickness so it’s really only if I’m overdue, very short tempered, very hungry and along with that little blue line that I know I’m pregnant. At 12 weeks, I went to the hospital for my booking …

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The Government does not have a clue on a solution to the Irish border problem

Being an earnest seeker after truth I downloaded the full Joint Report of 8 December in order to discover just how the Prime Minister proposed to accomplish the trick of leaving the single market and the customs union whilst still having no physical border between the European Union, ie the Republic of Ireland, and the UK, ie Northern Ireland.

I searched in vain. There are no practical plans whatsoever in the Report. All there is are statements of intent on “the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland,” relying “to a significant extent on a common European Union legal and policy framework,” on being “committed …. to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border,” and “will propose specific solutions,” “will maintain full alignment,” with the necessary EU rules and “will establish mechanisms to ensure the implementation and oversight of any specific arrangement to safeguard the integrity of the EU Internal Market and the Customs Union.” It has the worthy aims of “what” they want, but nothing of “how”.

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Vince to argue for single market and customs union on visit to Ireland

Our Vince is off to Ireland tomorrow, where he’ll meet leading Irish politicians to discuss Brexit.
Vince will be discussing the implications of the end of the first phase of Brexit negotiations, set to be approved by EU leaders, which failed to find a long-term solution to the Irish border issue.

He said:

The Conservative government has so far botched Brexit, and amongst the people who stand to be most affected are those living on the island of Ireland.

Even after the ‘divorce settlement’ and the agreement to proceed with trade talks, it isstill unclear how a hard border will be averted.

Audiences in Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland are being told different things. Many of the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement have been put at risk as a result.

The unnecessary decision by the Conservatives to leave the Single Market and Customs Union was not mandated by the EU referendum. It is a miscalculation that will harm commerce between our countries.

Those economic ties are much stronger than is generally realised, given the Republic is the fifth biggest customer for UK exports and we are the second biggest market for Irish exports. 6,000 vehicles cross the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland every day.

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ALDE Party Congress – the Brexit resolution…

At the end of the week, liberals from across Europe come to Amsterdam to meet, debate policies, attend fringe meetings and elect new members of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) Party’s Bureau. There’ll be approximately one hundred Liberal Democrats present, and Liberal Democrat Voice will be covering events as usual.

Our coverage this year starts with a review of the resolutions to be considered, and it will come as no surprise that one of the subjects for debate is Brexit, and that’s where we’ll start.

It might surprise readers to …

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Two sides of Irish history reflected in celebrity family tree


This is about some holiday season viewing which may be of interest to readers – rather than an article trying to make a political point.

“Who do you think you are” covers television presenter Emma Willis’ family history in an episode available on BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days. It is worth a watch.

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Irish Liberal Democrats and LDV St Patrick’s Day fringe at York

Theresa May dealt a blow to Ireland in her Brexit white paper when she said she wanted in effect to leave the EU customs union, confirming Brexit poses a huge threat to frictionless cross-border trade on the island of Ireland, the mainstay of the Irish economy.

The Irish Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Mulhall said last month that comprehensive customs and border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland are not remotely possible

Northern Ireland polled more europhilic than other regions in the UK before the election. Its Remain vote of 55.7 per cent was the third strongest in the country. Nationalists wanted the UK to remain in the EU, but unionists generally wanted to leave. Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Ulster Unionists, Alliance and the Green Party wanted to stay. The Irish government also wanted a remain vote. The DUP, the TUV and the left-wing People before Profit party backed Brexit.

As Sinn Fein and the DUP jostle for position in a new power sharing agreement at Stormont the Brexit divide has come to the fore. If the parties are unable to agree an accommodation, we may yet see a return to direct rule of the province from Westminster.

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LibLInk: Nick Clegg: UK not taking seriously Brexit impact on Ireland

Nick Clegg has written an article in the Irish Times accusing the British government of not taking  the impact of Brexit on Ireland seriously enough. David Davis didn’t even mention maintaining the “soft border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic:

Instead, the government made a fleeting reference to the fact they will aim to “minimise frictions and administrative burdens”. This suggests that in one shape or form there will be an unwelcome return to checks at the Border.

There is a pattern here – the government doesn’t appear to be taking seriously the negative impact Brexit will have

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UK-Irish post Brexit relations

Malta assumes the presidency of the EU at the start of 2017. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, in setting out his priorities, has said the ‘Irish Border’ Issue must be settled before Brexit talks can begin in earnest, injecting some urgency given that talks are expected  to get underway in April next year.

Helpfully, the House of Lords EU select committee published a report this week titled Brexit: UK-Irish Relations. The report notes the special ties between the UK and Ireland and the friendship that has developed as the Northern Ireland peace process has advanced. Also noting that Ireland’s common membership of the EU has been one of the foundations of this close relationship.

The report draws attention to: the serious economic implications of Brexit for Ireland, North and South; the consequences for the Irish land border of potential restrictions to the free movement of goods and people; the
implications for the Common Travel Area (CTA) and for the special status of UK and Irish citizens in each other’s countries, including the right of people born in Northern Ireland to Irish (and therefore EU) citizenship; the potential impact on political stability in Northern Ireland; and the challenge to the
institutional structure for North-South cooperation on the island of Ireland, and East-West relations between the UK and Ireland, established under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

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Opinion: What the Liberal Democrats can learn about democracy from the people of Ireland

I cannot be alone amongst Liberal Democrats, after the general election result we have just been through, in questioning the collected wisdom of the UK electorate.

Fortunately, as an Irishman, my faith in the collective wisdom of the people has been dramatically restored by the result of the equal marriage referendum in Ireland, as my people lustily endorsed equality, and cast off the comfort of bigotry to which it is easy to resort in times of economic strife.

But, just as Ireland becoming the first country on earth to enshrine this type of equality into the law by popular vote will, I hope, act as a beacon for other states around Europe and the world to follow a similar path, I hope that the Liberal Democrats also manage to learn the lessons from Ireland’s result.

Of course, the Liberal Democrats have much of which to be proud in these matters, being the driving force behind the introduction of marriage equality in the UK.

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LoveProudly: An interview with Stephen Donnan about the fight for Marriage Equality in Ireland (North and South)

Tomorrow Ireland votes on whether to allow equal marriage. I recently interviewed Stephen Donnan who is one of the founders of LoveProudly , a grassroots group dedicated to marriage equality across all of Ireland. He is also a former Chair of the LGBT group in the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.

Mathew: Stephen, tell us a bit about this new initiative.

Stephen: Well, basically, Mathew loveproudly was set up by myself and a number of other activists from Belfast, Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland to facilitate and support the calls for Equal Marriage in both Northern Ireland and in the Republic.

We want to promote and campaign for Marriage Equality and highlight the existing inequalities in the law in both jurisdictions, but in a positive and constructive way.

We don’t want to indulge in the campaign of fear and division; that isn’t what loveproudly is about and we want to follow in the example set by MarriageEquality and Equal Marriage NI.

MH: It sounds great, Stephen, so is this a cross-party campaign?

SD: It’s strictly independent of endorsing or being endorsed by any one political party.

I am not doing this within the confines of a political party, however we have had input and support from various political representatives across the spectrum and across the border.

MH: So what campaigning have you done and will you be doing?

SD: Our first aim was to get the message out about who we are and what we are aiming to achieve and I think we did that successfully when we launched on Valentine’s Day.

Our next step is formulating a plan with the two campaigns.

There is a Marriage Equality referendum in the Republic of Ireland on May 22nd and while we are optimistic we are still very far from an assured Yes vote.

We will be canvassing with the YesEquality campaign in the south and getting the word out on why a Yes vote is so crucial.

MH: How’s it looking in the Republic…and what influence has Equal Marriage having become law in England, Scotland and Wales had on people there?

SD: It is clear that we are living in changed times.

The recognition of same sex marriage in the rest of the UK, and in places as unimaginable as Slovenia and North Carolina, has had a massive impact on the debate here.

If Ireland and NI want to be seen as part of Europe, part of a diverse future where same-sex couples can celebrate their relationships freely and safely, then there’s nothing to lose from a Yes vote in the referendum.

Polls are showing that it will pass but that could lead to complacency and that would be fatal for us.

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