The Curious Case of Loyalist Bonfires in Northern Ireland

“The revelation that Belfast City Council is involved in facilitating the storage of pallets (including stolen pallets) to be burnt on loyalist bonfires typically adorned with posters of nationalist politicians, Kill All Taigs-emblazoned Tricolours, Celtic shirts and a statue of the Virgin Mary would be remarkable on its own, but news that the stored pallets have been ‘stolen’ just as City Councillors were set to agree that the material would not be returned to loyalists more than suggests that something is seriously rotten in the state of Denmark City Hall.” (Slugger O’Toole)
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Likely DUP Demands in supporting the May Government

As someone who grew up on the island of Ireland the DUP are well known to me as indeed are Sinn Féin. I find it saddening that the more centrist parties: the SDLP, Alliance and the UUP captured no seats in GE 2017. All we are left with is two parties  with significant links to paramilitary groups but with very different politics. Apart from the obvious (that SF are Nationalist and the DUP unionist), SF are in politics a socialist modern party but the DUP are ultra conservative with a 17th century mindset considerably to the right of the Tea Party in the US. They are Protestant fundamentalists if not supremacists. It is not however difficult, looking through their various manifestos and policy statements, to get an idea of their likely bargaining position and there is a list which has been compiled here.

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Where to now with Brexit?

I was in Dublin at the weekend; nothing unusual about that, it is my hometown and I go back regularly. On this occasion it was the 40th reunion of my UCD class of ’77. I know that I move in circles where everyone is both successful and well educated so their opinions may not represent a true cross-section of the Irish population however a few things were evident:

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Labour has got to hurry

There is no time to waste when you’re a real alternative government – and that is what Labour has now become.

But they need to sort out their EU strategy. They already seem to have said that they want to have the same benefits outside the customs union as inside it (which seems a tad unlikley) but they too, seem to have bought the meme that free movement of people is a problem. Immigration may have been on Nigel Farage’s infamous poster but it wasn’t on the ballot paper. So the idea that the Brexiteers were all voting against immigration is purely speculative.

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If we close our eyes will we know we have left the EU?

I visited Northern Ireland numerous times in the 1960’s most notably perhaps was a School Civics trip from my Dublin school (St Paul’s Raheney) to Stormont in early May 1968. We were sponsored by Gerry Fitt (the then leader of the SDLP) who showed us around and I remember meeting Ian Paisley who was really charming and gracious, in total contrast to the firebrand image he portrayed on Television. I can’t say I remember any of the debate, but we had some time in Belfast city centre. The overall impression was extremely positive. The roads were vastly better than in the Republic which was immediately apparent when we crossed the border. Indeed at the time the roads in the Republic were largely maintained at a county level. My maternal grandfather from Tipperary used to tease my grandmother, from Limerick, and ask her to close her eyes and guess when the county border was crossed – at the time the roads in Tipperary were much better; they lived in Galbally on the county border.  I saw my first ever colour television set, and even better, I was able to stock upon Opal Fruits (Starburst), which were unavailable in the Republic due to the strict protectionism of the local confectionery industry. (I tried them last week when I was again in Belfast but they were not the same!) I also thought the Belfast trolley buses were very exciting, it was the second largest system in the UK after London at the time. (The entire trolley bus system was closed just a week or so after my visit; there was a craze in both Britain and Ireland at the time for ripping out old transport systems in the name of modernity, which in retrospect seems vandalous.) Belfast City Hall was also very impressive and Belfast in general seemed a lot more prosperous than Dublin.

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